Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is expected to speak with the attorney general regarding an appearance of Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber before the Knesset’s Constitution Committee last week, Makor Rishon reported Monday.
Shaked will hold the conversation with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit immediately upon her return to Israel from New York, after Zilber had expressed her opposition to a bill initiated by Shaked, contrary to the rules concerning the representation of the government ministry vis-a-vis Knesset committees.
Five days ago, Deputy Attorney General Zilber appeared at the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, to represent the position of Attorney General Mandelblit, whom she claims was unable to participate in the hearing, on Shaked’s bill which allows government ministers to appoint their office’s legal advisor. Zilber opened with a statement she was asked to give on his behalf, and then went on to express her own opinion against the bill to the committee members.
“The Attorney General wanted to clarify his firm opposition to the law,” Zilber told the committee, adding, “The role of a legal advisor is to realize the goals of the elected officials within the rule of law. Most government ministers are satisfied with the work of the legal advisors of their ministries, who faithfully represent the positions of the ministers, including when facing me, when necessary. They are loyal public servants and therefore there is no substantive need for the proposed bills.”
Zilber then moved on to express her opposition to the complementary bills proposed by Shaked and MK Amir Ohana (Likud), suggesting both bills turn the legal adviser’s position into a personal appointment, which she said was destructive.
In addition, the appointment under the Shaked bill is for seven years, as governments change, incoming ministers would be stuck with their predecessors’ politically appointed legal advisers.
Sources familiar with the matter told Makor Rishon that Zilber’s appearance was a “slap in the face” to Justice Minister Shaked, who initiated the bill with government approval. In fact, contrary to Zilber’s assertions, the Legal Advisers Law seeks to appoint each ministry’s legal advisor through a search committee and not by outside consultants, so that the minister in charge would have more control over the appointment, and the legal advisor placed in his office would assist rather than sabotage the minister’s agenda.
This is not the first time Zilber has come out against Minister Shaked’s position. In July 2015, the justice minister reprimanded Zilber after she had leaked to the Zionist Camp a negative opinion on the bill proposed by MK Bezalel Samotrich regulating the legal status of the government’s Settlement Division.
The publication of an opinionwhich contradicted the government’s position, after the bill had been approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, angered the justice minister, who viewed Zilber’s move as exceeding the DAG’s authority, and as an expression of a legal counselor’s activism – precisely the kind Shaked’s new bill seeks to correct.
It is not yet clear what steps will be taken against Zilber.
In her book, “Bureaucracy as Politics,” Zilber shares her view on the role of jurists in the public service and the balance of power between them and the elected officials:
“My argument is that in the administrative state, the importance of public administration is paramount. Therefore, it is important that the bureaucratic level recognize its own power to formulate policy on cardinal issues. The important target is to shift the center of government power and the ability to make practical decisions on questions of policy from the elected political echelon to the appointed official level.
“These processes take place under the guise of neutrality and objective expertise, bypassing the democratic process and its risks, without giving an account to the general public whose fate is determined at the administrative level.”