Attorney general slams bills that ‘harm Israeli democracy’

Speaking in Haifa, Israel’s attorney general claimed democratic institutions are under attack by a cluster of bills that would “bring down the gatekeepers of the law.”

By: Jack Ben-David, World Israel News

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit stated his firm opposition to a list of bills currently promoted by the government, which, he said, would “harm (Israel’s) entire democracy” if passed. Among them is a proposed law that would strip police of the right to recommend indictments at the end of a criminal investigation or to publicize such recommendations.

Speaking Thursday at the Israel Bar Association in Haifa, Mandelblit cited a number of bills seemingly designed to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from investigation as he finds himself at the center of multiple corruption probes.

Among those referenced by Mandleblit was the so-called immunity bill, an initiative that outlaws an investigation against a sitting prime minister, which is being spearheaded by Netanyahu loyalist Members of Knesset David Bitan and David Amsalem of the prime minister’s Likud party.

Another piece of legislation that made it to Mandelblit’s list of concerns was a bill that would require the consent of a government minister to appoint a legal adviser, scrapping the current tender-based procedure that restricts the minister’s influence on the nomination.

In the past, Mandelblit has expressed opposition to the proposed law, arguing that ministerial legal advisers should not simply rubber-stamp ministers’ decision, but rather serve as a legal buffer between decisions taken by ministers and those decisions’ constitutionality.

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“When you start to weaken these institutions and to harm them, you harm the entire democracy,” Mandelblit said.

“It is very sad that recently we have seen more and more of these bills. We don’t see one or two bills, but a group of bills to bring down the gatekeepers of the law,” he argued.

“They do not increase governing stability, they harm it,” he said, contradicting claims to the contrary by Bitan and Amsalem. “The way to increase governing stability is to guard the law.”

Mandelblit’s statements were buttressed by a number of former high-ranking legal officials. Former Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Zamir, for example, decried the current political climate in which the legal guardians of the country’s laws were so aggressively under assault.

“There has never been an environment that was so rough and hostile to all of the gatekeepers, to anyone who is trying keep the government in check and to maintain proper and legal administrative practices,” Zamir said during the conference, adding that they all feel personally under attack.

Making her debut at the conference as the new Supreme Court president, Esther Hayut also attempted to delineate the parameters of guarding Israel’s democratic institutions, which many complained had come under attack when her predecessor, Miriam Naor, was subjected to vociferous censure over a series of rulings she made that obstructed government bills she had deemed problematic or unconstitutional.

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“The existence of the State of Israel and its future are dependent on the rule of law and the rule of democracy,” Hayut said, quoting David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.