Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and former Attorney General of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein. (Archive: May 2015)

(JNi.media) Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) on Thursday summoned attorney Dina Zilber and admonished her for passing to Labor MK Merav Michaeli an opinion objecting to the passing of a bill regulating of the Settlement Division, contrary to the government’s position, saying “a situation in which a government representative disagrees with the government’s position” after a vote “is inconsistent with the principles of law and proper governing procedures.”

According to Makor Rishon, Minister Shaked personally reprimanded Deputy Attorney General Zilber, who handed MK Michaeli her legal opinion about a bill regulating the status of the Settlement Division submitted by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi).

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The Settlement Division is an independent unit within the World Zionist Organization, which serves as the implementing arm of the Israeli government in the establishment and consolidation of rural settlements in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights, and since 2004, the Negev and the Galilee as well. The division operations are fully funded by the Israeli government.

The Zionist Camp (Labor) party’s MKs are in the midst of a serious internal debate over whether or not to regulate the status of the Settlement Division. Among those who support the regulation in principle are MKs Danny Atar and Shelly Yachimovich. MK Merav Michaeli opposes the bill.

The bill enshrines in legislation the long-standing engagement between the governments of Israel and the Settlement Division, which, according to MK Smotrich “is a unique organization developing settlements in the land and realizing the Zionist mission of the state, thus solving the problem of authority about which Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber is complaining.”

MK Michaeli approached Zilber, requesting her opinion on the matter, in light of the opinions published by Zilber two months ago on the same subject.

Zilber’s opinion described in harsh words the abnormal relationship that has developed between the state and the Settlement Division. She describes it as a “governing twilight zone and a backyard under which broad and significant governmental powers trigger huge budgets, which are distributed in accordance with internal parameters and without effective controls, making for the easy development of an obvious pathology.”

Zilber wrote to MK Michaeli that “our legal position was to oppose the bill.” She added that the Attorney General’s position is that under the current circumstances, when a Ministry Directors’ Committee has been established and tasked with examining the relationship between the government and the Settlement Division, there is no room to promote a private MK’s bill on the same subject.

Naturally, the Deputy AG saw nothing wrong in the twilight zone and backyard reality where a left-leaning civil servant working for the government is leaking a secret legal opinion intended for ministerial discussion to a similarly left-leaning MK. But the Justice Minister was irate when she discovered the leak and summoned Zilber to a face-to-face rebuke.

“I conducted a clarifying conversation with the Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber, following her act of passing an opinion to the MKs contrary to accepted practice,” Shaked told Makor Rishon. “I emphasized to her that the attorney general’s directive stipulates that a government employee is not allowed to present to a Knesset committee objection to a government bill or a substantial deviation from such a bill.”

Shaked added that Zilber’s violation of protocol was particularly serious, since Zilber passed the information to an MK who wanted “to use it to political end.”

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