Gideon Sa’ar and Menachem Mazuz fight to split AG’s role

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and former Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz took opposite sides of the debate Thursday on the question of dividing the attorney general’s powers into two roles.

Although the two legal titans weren’t together on stage, their interviews were presented one after the other as part of a virtual conference by the Israel Institute of Democracy.

Sa’ar has made the division of the attorney general’s powers into an independent chief prosecutor and an independent chief legal adviser one of the major campaigns of his time as Minister of Justice.

He told the conference that he hoped to make a major change “after and with the next attorney general’s election.”

He pointed out that “in a few days we will be finishing assembling the [Attorney-General] Selection Committee ”, and acknowledged that the change had not been possible in the first months of his mandate since“ he will also need a law approved by the Knesset ”, and the issue could be controversial for the liberal wing of the coalition.

Gideon Sa’ar (credit: Rami Zernger)

However, unlike Sa’ar’s initiative to pass a new Basic Law to establish the relationship of separation of powers between the different branches of government, which he admitted is probably frozen by political disagreements within the coalition, it seemed safer. that he would be able to divide. the powers of the attorney general.

Ironically, Mazuz is more willing to compromise with the Basic Law to establish the separation of powers, which in itself is less likely to pass.

Mazuz said that while he personally opposes any Basic Law that gives the Knesset the power to override Supreme Court vetoes of Knesset laws, he would be willing to concede on this if override required a supermajority of 65-70. MK, and in to solidify the authority of the judiciary in other areas.

However, Mazuz categorically opposed dividing the powers of the attorney general, saying that most democratic systems like Israel have one person exercising the powers of prosecutor and legal advisor.

Rejecting the arguments of others that other countries divide these powers, he said that there are some countries (such as the United States) that even combine the role of justice minister into one person along with that of chief prosecutor and chief legal adviser.

His implication was that critics incorrectly confuse countries that keep the role of the justice minister separate with the idea of ​​keeping the chief prosecutor and chief legal counsel separate.

“The separation will cause damage in almost all areas and will surely politicize work. The role of attorney general is constructed as apolitical, professional, and independent … part of this happens because he is the chief attorney. It does not represent the government. Represent the nation. So it can’t be a political appointment, ”Mazuz said.

He then gave an example where he was prosecuting a government official for a white collar crime that was carried out using a computer system that had no controls.

Since Mazuz was also the chief legal advisor, in addition to imputing the specific official, he was also able to simultaneously order new rules for the competent body to establish controls over the use of the computer system so that there is no access without leaving a clear trace.

Both Sa’ar and Mazuz supported new legislation that could lead to disqualifying former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from running for prime minister while they are indicted, though they had some different ideas on how to proceed.

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