With Eye on Next AG, Lieberman Insists on Friedmann at Justice

Justice Minister seeks power to appoint AG candidates ahead of end of Mazuz's term next March at latest.

Neither Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann nor his associates are willing to comment publicly on the possibility that he will retain his current post at the behest of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. One associate said the two men have not even spoken in four months. But there is no doubt that Friedmann would like to stay on, in order to implement a long list of reforms that he was unable to get through the last cabinet and Knesset. Nor is there any doubt that this could wind up benefiting Lieberman personally.

Friedmann's top priority is enacting legislation to split the attorney general's job in two. Currently, the attorney general is both head of the prosecution and the government's legal adviser; Friedmann believes these should be two separate positions.

Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak fiercely opposes this idea; last month, he termed it a "mortal blow" to the institution of the attorney general. But Friedmann views this as the perfect moment, since current attorney general Menachem Mazuz will end his term next March at the latest, and possibly even sooner.

More significantly, however, Friedmann wants to change the composition of the search committee that recommends candidates for the attorney generalship - or, alternatively, for the new post of head of the prosecution. Currently, the committee's chairman is appointed by the Supreme Court president; Friedmann says the justice minister should appoint the chair.

Essentially this means that Friedmann, who would owe his job to Lieberman, would have a major impact on the choice of the next attorney general - who may be the one to decide whether or not to indict Lieberman in a case now under police investigation.

Another reform Friedmann wants to enact is changing the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee to reduce the Supreme Court's influence on judicial appointments. Currently, sitting Supreme Court justices comprise three of the committee's nine members. Friedmann wants to add two members to the panel - the chairman of the Knesset Constitution Committee and a university professor - and replace two of the sitting Supreme Court justices with retired district court judges. Critics say this would increase political influence over judicial appointments.

Finally, Friedmann wants to pass legislation to curtail the Supreme Court's right to intervene in defense, foreign policy and budgetary issues and restrict its ability to overturn Knesset legislation.