Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s choice of Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari as acting state prosecutor, defying Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, is but the latest attempt by the caretaker government headed by the indicted Benjamin Netanyahu to undermine the rule of law. It also dovetails with Netanyahu’s battle cries against the State Prosecutor’s Office after the release of the attorney general’s decision to try him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
According to Mendelblit, the choice of Ginsberg Ben-Ari “doesn’t meet the necessary requirements for the position of acting state prosecutor” and that it “exceeds, in an extreme way, the scope of what is reasonable.”
Thus, he said, “there is a legal impediment to its approval.” According to Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz, the choice “is liable to erode the proper functioning of the state prosecutor.”
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Ohana is neither interested in these arguments of substance nor in the facts that he is justice minister in a caretaker government, and that the country is in the midst of a third election cycle due to the deadlock stemming from Netanyahu’s legal predicament. Ohana was well aware of Mendelblit’s warnings when he announced his candidates for the position. Mendelblit made it clear that the justice minister must consult with him before the appointment, and not to deviate from his recommendation unless he presents compelling arguments. He even named the deputy state prosecutor for criminal affairs, Shlomo Lemberger, as his preference.
To make matters worse, the appointment was made at a particularly sensitive moment. Now the cases against the prime minister will be laid on the table of the state prosecutor, which will require “dealing with various legal aspects connected to the decision to try the prime minister,” as Mendelblit stressed in his opinion on Tuesday. “These are sensitive issues that require an even greater obligation to ensure the independence of the person holding the position, and above all the public appearance of independence.”
None of this prevented Ohana from defying Mendelblit and the Israeli Judicial Authority. True to the spirit of his commander, who spreads tales of a legal putsch and seeks “to investigate the investigators,” Ohana is abusing his temporary political power in an attempt to weaken the institution of the state prosecutor. Instead of respecting the circumstances and reducing his presence in the appointment process, Ohana seeks to squeeze everything he can get out of his temporary position.
Mendelblit pledged in closed-door meetings in the Justice Ministry that he would refuse to defend the appointment of a person unqualified for the job. “I won’t be a part of it,” he told his colleagues. The issue of the appointment will probably end up in the High Court of Justice, and the court is not expected to approve it. Thus, the public has received another reminder of the urgent need to replace Netanyahu’s corrupt and messianic regime.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.