Israeli justice minister bans deputy attorney general from Knesset for political remarks

It’s acceptable for a civil servant to express a legal position that contradicts the government’s position, but it is unacceptable for a public official to express a political position, the justice minister said.

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is demanding that Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber resign or be dismissed after making harsh remarks against government policy while representing the government at a Knesset committee.

Shaked said Wednesday that Zilber will not represent the government at Knesset deliberations until Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit finishes his inquiry into the possibility Zilber broke the law. “The bottom line is she won’t be coming to the Knesset or the government until the attorney general finishes clarifying the matter,” Shaked said.

Zilber sparked controversy Tuesday when she spoke at the Knesset’s Education Committee against the Cultural Loyalty Law promoted by Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev. The law lets the government withhold funding from cultural institutions or events that harm or defame Israel.

Zilber claimed that the bill wounded “social discourse. If someone can be loyal, then someone else is a traitor? A fifth column? … Show us a disciplined and educated people whose thought is uniform. Loyalty in culture is an oxymoron like a deafening silence,” Zilber said, according to Israel National News.

Responding to the controversy at TheMarker’s Road Safety Conference, Shaked said that “the attorney general or someone on his behalf can come and present an opposing legal position, but not political positions.”

“If a senior public official wants to enter into political issues, he should resign and join one of the parties or an NGO. It cannot be done as part of the advisory function to the government,” she said.

Shaked underscored that policy must be determined by elected officials and not state employees, “otherwise it would be impossible to run the state.”

While it is acceptable for a civil servant to express a legal position that contradicts the government’s position, it is unacceptable for a public official to express a political position, Shaked explained. “It does damage.”

Earlier Wednesday, Mandelblit sent a sharp letter to Shaked stating that a decision regarding Zilber’s actions or future were subject to his authority and “exclusive responsibility, and there is no room for intervention in this authority,” referring to Shaked’s demand that Zilber be prevented from representing the government in the Knesset or the Supreme Court.

He said he will decide how to relate to Zilber’s apparently political statements at the Knesset committee.

Despite his sharp letter, Mandelblit agreed that Zilber will not represent the government until the matter is settled.