Who Will Be the Law Enforcers?

For the first time in the history of the state, the man about to be elected prime minister will most probably be called in for police investigation a short time after taking office.

For the first time in the history of the state, the man about to be elected prime minister will most probably be called in for police investigation a short time after taking office. The decision to indict him will depend on three men who depend on him for their appointments. These are the next justice minister, the next state prosecutor and the next attorney general. Sharon's choices will reveal a lot about his regard for the rule of law and the extent of his good faith.

Elyakim Rubinstein's and Edna Arbel's terms are coming to an end. They both hope to be appointed to the Supreme Court after seven (Arbel) and six (Rubinstein) years in their present posts. The Justice Ministry post will also open with the forming of a new cabinet, whose ministers will be appointed by the elected prime minister. The attorney general and state prosecutor are elected by the entire cabinet, on the basis of the justice minister's recommendation. The justice minister's appointment depends solely on the decision of the prime minister.

Sharon and the ministers who will join him in the cabinet will be tested by their choice. Will they choose for the post of attorney general a man in the spirit of Yosef Harish and Elyakim Rubinstein, or in the image of Meir Shamgar and Aharon Barak? And who will be justice minister - Tzachi Hanegbi or Dan Meridor?

It may be presumed that Sharon and his aides will not appoint blatantly unsuitable people for state prosecutor and attorney general. They will seek candidates in the legal community, especially among the judges, who will fulfill the the formal requirements of both positions: experienced jurists, devoid of any declared political or ideological bias. But this description can encompass various candidates, those who have the required inner steel to do the sensitive job properly, and those whose spine and integrity are less resistant.

This is also the case of the justice minister's appointment. He does not appear to have direct bearing on the attorney general's and state prosecutor's professional decisions. But in practice his personality and values have considerable influence on the judicious norms of the Justice Ministry. When the justice minister was Tzachi Hanegbi, the Bar-On affair broke (although the investigation did not reveal his direct involvement in the conspiracy); when the justice minister was Haim Tsadok, he authorized impartial investigations - of then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and minister Avraham Ofer and the candidate for Israel Bank governor, Asher Yadlin, who was indicted. The spirit of the commander is what counts.

The suspicions attributed to the prime minister (and to other public figures who are candidates for ministers in the next cabinet) raise the question whether it is not time to expropriate the authority to appoint the attorney general and state prosecutor from the cabinet and give it to another body, such as the committee for the appointment of judges.

The Shamgar committee, which was appointed to draw conclusions from the Bar-On affair, recommended a new procedure meant to minimize the possibility that ulterior motives determine the attorney general's appointment. The recommendation was not implemented. Now that the appointment of the jurists responsible for enforcing the law is in the hands of politicians whose future depends on the people they pick, there is an urgent need to sever this dependence and entrust the appointment of attorney general and state prosecutor to an ex-cabinet body.