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Ne’eman Tapped as Justice Minister, Friedmann Congratulates Him

Prof. Yaakov Ne’eman is the agreed candidate for Justice Minister. The appointment is bad news for Supreme Court President Beinisch.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/13/2009, 2:25 PM

Flash 90

Prof. Yaakov Ne’eman, one of Israel’s leading lawyers, is the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu’s agreed choice for Minister of Justice in Israel’s next government. The outgoing Justice Minister, Prof. Daniel Friedmann, congratulated Ne’eman on his appointment on Friday.

The appointment is seen as very bad news for Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, because Ne’eman, like Beinisch’s nemesis Friedmann, wishes to carry out reforms in the judicial system. Ne’eman could even turn out to be a greater bane to Beinisch because unlike Friedmann, he enjoys wide support from parliamentary factions on both right and left.

The kippah-wearing Ne’eman asked that he be named as a Likud appointment rather than a Yisrael Beiteinu appointment, in order to avoid possible accusations that he was doing the bidding of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who is under criminal investigations. The Justice Ministry will thus be a Likud portfolio, and Yisrael Beiteinu will receive the Aliyah Absorption portfolio.

Ne’eman was selected for the post in order to break the impasse between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu over the appointment of the next Justice Minister. While the Likud agreed to give Yisrael Beiteinu control over the Justice portfolio, it refused to let Yisrael Beiteinu leader reappoint Friedmann to head it. Likud MKs Dan Meridor, Gideon Saar (both considered close to Beinisch) and Benny Begin were fiercely opposed to Friedmann’s reappointment, and Meridor even reportedly threatened to resign if Friedmann stayed on.

Not friends with Beinisch and Arbel
Ne’eman’s relationship with Beinisch and Supreme Court Judge Edna Arbel is not a good one. It was Arbel who, as Chief Prosecutor, pressed charges against Ne’eman - leading to his resignation on August 8, 1996, less than two months after he was appointed Justice Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu’s first government.

Then-Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair informed the Supreme Court that he decided to press the charges against Ne’eman, on suspicions of filing a false affidavit to the High Court and lying in testimony to the police. Ne’eman resigned immediately. He was eventually acquitted of the charges.  The charges filed aga
Ne’eman could even turn out to be a greater bane to Beinisch because unlike Friedmann, he enjoys wide support from parliamentary factions on both right and left.
inst Ne’eman have been interpreted as a Machiavellian move by the Supreme Court and Attorney General to prevent the appointment of a minister considered ‘undesirable’ by the system.

Ne’eman has criticized what he says are investigations against politicians whom the justice and law enforcement establishment does not want to see in office, like Reuven Rivlin (who was a candidate for Justice Minister) and the late Rafael Eitan (who was a candidate for Minister of Police). He is a severe critic of Israel’s State Prosecution, and has accused the police and media of cooperating in hounding public figures despite the harm that this does to Israel’s image.

Congratulations from Friedmann
Daniel Friedmann said Friday that Ne’eman’s appointment was “an excellent choice of one of Israel’s foremost lawyers who also has a rich academic background and extensive public experience.”

Friedmann added that he was “convinced that Yaakov Ne’eman will work to stabilize the governmental system and the relationship between the branches, and that he will operate to improve the functioning of the courts and the law enforcement system, and to strengthen the rule of law in its true sense.”