Internal Israeli crisis: Attorney General’s Office usurping will of the voters

The Kohelet Policy Forum calls out the Attorney General’s Office for usurping the voters’ wishes by encroaching on the Knesset’s authority to legislate.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israeli NGO Kohelet has called out the office of the attorney general for overriding the will of the voting public by taking away the Knesset’s right to legislate as the public’s representatives, in the name of its own set of values.

David Peter, a lawyer in the legal division of the Kohelet Policy Forum, told Israel’s Channel 20 this week that it was an “institutional” problem, rather than a personal one having to do with the identity of the man who heads the office, Attorney General Avishai Mandelblit.

“The attorney-general as an institution, as legal advisers, have become an authority that directs the government ministries and the legislative branch as to what is reasonable,” he charged.

Instead of a government decision being made and then challenged in court, he said, “This is a much earlier stage, where someone is whispering into the decision-makers’ ears, ‘This isn’t reasonable,’” so the law may not even get written.

This is a clear usurpation of the voters’ will, Peter said.

“The problem is that what is reasonable and what isn’t, is an issue of values. In a democracy, ethical values are decided in the Knesset,” whose members are voted in by the people, each according to their own values, he said.

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“The attorney general works in the name of the good of the public – they pride themselves on this,” he said. “And the good of the public is very measurable, it’s called the voting booth,” and the coalition that is created reflects the people’s values.

“The attorney-general cannot, and likewise, the High Court of Justice, is not authorized to make ethical decisions but to carry out the law,” he said.

Peter gave concrete examples of how the attorney-general’s office is blurring the lines between the branches of government due to a values-driven outlook.

“In 2018, the legislature authorized the interior minister to annul the [Israeli] residency of terrorists, in order to take away their social benefits,” but the attorney-general then gave it back to them through a “back door,” he said.

This was due to the opinion that they had the constitutional right to continue getting the benefits, and so they were given a different residency status.

Another case involves the touchy subject of the tens of thousands of illegal migrants in Israel.

Dr. Omri Ben Zvi, the attorney-general’s representative in the Justice Ministry, recently wrote a private, academic article stating that there should be no difference between the constitutional rights of citizens and illegals who have been in the country for a long time. This opinion has been translated into policy, Peter said.

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“Dr. Ben Zvi recently signed a Justice Ministry document that basically conditions the removal of families of people staying here illegally on having a hearing for the children. Dr. Ben Zvi says that the good of the child, and his desires, are a decisive consideration,” he said.

“It’s obvious that for any child of a third-world country, it’s to his benefit and he will want to settle in a prosperous country like Israel. De facto, there is a complete assumption here and foiling of the possibility of removing them,” Peter said.

Polls have shown that the vast majority of Israelis want the illegals removed.