Cabinet Showdown on Levy Report Next Month
The Minister for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, says the State Attorney's Office is disrupting proper governance by adopting positions that contradict those of the elected leadership regarding Migron and other Judea and Samaria communities.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva's Shimon Cohen, Edelstein explains that the State Attorney's Office (SAO) is ignoring decisions made by the political leadership regarding Migron.
SC: The government's position is that the tenants of homes that were built on land that was purchased should not be evicted. Attorney General and Government Legal Advisor Yehuda Weinstein and the SAO replied to the High Court, in the state's name, that the tenants should indeed be evicted. I wanted to ask you something simple: is the prime minister named Yehuda Weinstein?
YE: The situation is not quite that extreme, but there is certainly a disruption of proper governance processes here. It's a shame that this is only being hashed out with regard to Migron, because it could also manifest itself in matters of economics and diplomacy.
Some people here have gotten used to answering in the name of the state in the courts, and then decided that they are the state, and can't accept the proper situation in which the political leadership makes the decisions. Legal advice has value, of course, but we can't accept a situation in which the political leadership's decisions are ignored.
SC: When a private individual feels that his lawyer is not representing him, he fires him. Is there a similar procedure for the Government Legal Advisor?
YE: This possibility has come up in the discussions of the Ministerial Committee on Settlement, not necessarily with regard to Migron. We thought about asking another lawyer to represent the government when the Legal Advisor refuses. This is not meant as a slight toward the Legal Advisor. Such things have been done. It's not an optimal situation, but with all due respect, they need to understand that they are working for the government, and I think some of them do not feel this anymore.
SC: Perhaps the Legal Advisor should simply be fired?
YE: Such a move is not within my authority, of course. I am not the Prime Minister, nor am I the Justice Minister, but I also do not think we have reached that spot yet. There is a serious anomaly that needs to be fixed, but if you ask me what should be done, I think that if there is a united front regarding the next matters that come up before the Ministerial Committee, including the Prime Minister, I am sure that we can gradually restore order.
SC: You speak of a united front. Let me remind you that the Defense Minister is also a member of this committee. Is such a front possible?
YE: The Defense Minister is indeed a member of the committee but I do not recall seeing him at the meetings… There is a very interesting situation here. There were three things on the committee's schedule in the last meeting: the Ezra House in Hevron, the new construction in Beit El and Migron. In the first two matters, the Defense Ministry and the IDF Civil Administration presented the same position as most ministers. The SAO realized it had a problem and asked the High Court for a postponement. Why? It's not clear. Apparently they do not want to take on the entire establishment head-on, so they asked for a postponement…
SC: So maybe the ministerial committee was established just so you could let off steam and receive the backing of the Prime Minister, but in actuality nothing is happening, not even a vote.
YE: I hope that this was not the purpose of creating the committee. But soon things will clear up. One of my colleagues in the committee suggested collectively resigning from it. They tell me that the legal case in Migron is difficult and maybe it was not the right issue to get worked up over—but soon, other, much simpler cases will come up, in which there is no argument, like Ezra House, and if we see that there, too, the government's instructions are not carried out and the answers to the High Court do not fit our positions, we will understand what we are up against. If we see that another session or two go by and we are only letting off steam and wasting time, I will not be the only one who concludes that nothing has changed.
SC: Another disturbing question regarding the Ministerial Committee on Settlement is that of the "disappearing report" – the Levy Committee Report. Most of you say its conclusions should be adopted, but nothing is happening.
YE: You are right that this is another test of the committee. If we do not want to drown in legal and semi-legal arguments on every point, we need to discuss the Levy report and adopt its conclusions, and change the background of the discussions. I can reveal to you that after one of the newspapers quoted a senior source as saying that there is an intention to ignore the report, I spoke to the prime minister about this and he said very clearly that he has no idea who the senior source is and that this is not his intent. He intends to bring the report to a discussion in the committee in September.
SC: Could the report be a bit too nationalistic for the prime minister? Maybe the prime minister would have less difficulty in adopting it is its conclusions were not so pointed?
YE: This report contains many sections, some of which have not yet been discussed or written about. It's important to note that the fact that the report will be discussed in the committee does not mean that every comma in it will be adopted by the government.
The report proves some things that we have forgotten, like the fact that there are divergent legal positions and some retired judges and distinguished academicians can write things that are diametrically opposed to what others think. There is a basis for discussion here, and, I think, also for adoption, without which the situation on the ground will get worse.
I hope that the report will be brought before the committee for a series of discussions that will end in a vote. It is important that the ministers, at least, achieve a wide understanding that it is time to act differently. If that happens, we will be bringing back healthy governance.
A petition calling on the government to accept the Levy Report can be viewed and signed here.