Israel’s outgoing justice minister regrets unfinished reforms: The department protects itself, not public

Departing Justice Minister Amir Ohana passes the reins to Avi Nissenkorn, but not without a few choice words.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

After a series of internal battles, outgoing Justice Minister Amir Ohana passed the reins to Avi Nissenkorn on Monday evening and criticized the department he briefly ran in his farewell speech to senior Justice Ministry officials. Ohana was appointed justice minister in June 2019.

“I leave my post with mixed feelings,” said Ohana, who will now serve as Minister of Public Security, taking over the position from Gilad Erdan. “The many issues we warned the Justice Department about were not corrected.”

“The changes that needed to be made in the State Attorney’s office also did not happen. Because today, like in the past, the justice system is designed to protect its own power rather than to protect public confidence in it.”

“Less than a year ago, I took office here before you. I brought in with me some of the sharpest legal minds in Israel, who feared the judiciary’s intervention in matters not under their jurisdiction. Their concerns are primarily about the court’s intervention in the political arena, interfering in decisions made by the legislature,” said Ohana.

“The judicial system is taking on the reins of state administration, when it is not an elected body. The Israeli public deserves a legal system that earns public trust and we will operate with the understanding that sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Ohana’s remarks came as a reference to growing complaints of judicial activism by the Supreme Court. A recent survey found that 40 percent of Israelis don’t trust the Supreme Court and 47 percent don’t trust the State Attorney’s office.

Ohana, however, did compliment the Justice Ministry on its efforts in recent months in managing the coronavirus crisis, saying, “I have also come to recognize your goodness, your diligence and dedication, especially in combating the outbreak of the virus through the life-saving emergency regulations.”

Avi Nissenkorn used his inaugural speech as Justice Minister to assure officials he would protect the ministry’s integrity and work to restore public faith in the legal system.

“The Justice Department is the defensive wall of Israeli democracy,” Nissenkorn said. “From now on, I’ll be your shield. You will receive all the protection you need to perform your public mission professionally, without fear, and with great pride. ”

Nissenkorn added, “Professional and substantive criticism of the judicial system is not only legitimate, it is necessary. But criticism is not the same as delegitimization. The strength of the judicial system is the foundation for maintaining the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”