Four of the five members of the powerful selection committee that will choose the candidate to be the next Attorney General were named Wednesday night.
Tami Ulman, a representative of the Israel Bar Association, is not known for being particularly conservative and has fought to defend the judiciary from attacks by former justice minister Amir Ohana. But she and Academic Representative Ron Shapira will not be able to sway a conservative majority.
However, this is not what Sa’ar is releasing publicly.
Publicly, he is arguing that dividing the Attorney General’s powers into two separate roles between two people is part of the coalition agreement and that he will succeed in passing a Knesset law to do so. But under detailed questioning in an interview in early October, he acknowledged that his deal is with Yesh Atid. It does not necessarily link Labor, Meretz, Raam, or other coalition partners who might be opposed to dividing the Attorney General’s role.
Sa’ar also acknowledged that he will select the next attorney general and that the impending budget will be approved before the division of functions occurs.
This means that your two main points of influence where you could have delayed government affairs impacting the other political parties will be gone before you even start trying to get what you want on the subject.
It is not a strong bargaining position.
Everyone knows that it will be much more difficult to meet pet priorities once the budget is approved.
In the fastest scenario, Sa’ar can get a law passed in the middle to late spring of next year, several months after the new attorney general has been installed.
So why is Sa’ar so outwardly confident in getting what he wants?
What if you have established a committee that elects a new attorney general based on a candidate who supports splitting the office? What if you ratified Amit Aisman’s role as chief prosecutor a few months ago, telling him that he would eventually come to act independently of a future Attorney General?
In that case, even if the Knesset could not pass a bill dividing the powers of the attorney general, Sa’ar could win simply if his new attorney general decided to avoid overseeing Aisman.
If Aisman did not have to verify the decisions of the prosecution with the new attorney general, then essentially the role would be divided, even if formally the attorney general still had certain powers.
There is nothing theoretical about this when it comes to some of the candidates.
Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri is in favor of splitting the role of attorney general for which he will likely compete alongside others.
The list of candidates for vacant Supreme Court magistrate positions includes many who could certainly agree to split the attorney general’s powers, and there are often some candidates for both the attorney general and the Supreme Court.
In fact, in the interview earlier this month, Sa’ar made it clear that he was unlikely to choose a candidate for attorney general who would oppose splitting the office.
Of course, Sa’ar can still get the Knesset to authorize the split.
Some of the liberal parties in the coalition may allow change to take place as compensation for something else that is high on their priority list, or if certain safeguards are included.
Alternatively, the liberal parts of the coalition can vote against the change, but it could be passed with the support of the opposition, who generally strongly support the change in principle if it can overcome its lack of cooperation with anything the coalition does.
But it appears that Sa’ar’s committee is beginning to position itself to put someone in the role who can fulfill the justice minister’s wish, with or without a new Knesset law.