Ayelet Shaked
Ayelet ShakedYonatan Sindel, Flash 90

Israeli legal officials sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit demanding they shelve a proposal to change how legal advisers are chosen.

Currently, government workers receive a notice informing them when a government office needs a legal adviser. Those who received the notice may apply, and one of them will be chosen for the position. The new initiative, proposed by Shaked, would involve a committee which actively searches for candidates and presents a list of possible candidates to the minister in charge of the relevant office. The legal adviser would then be appointed by the minister himself, and approved by the Attorney General.

"Appointment of a legal adviser by the minister in charge of the office instead of by the Civil Service Commission, and suggesting candidates via the relevant minister instead of via an application form, will not strengthen the Attorney General. Instead, it will weaken him, and it will harm the rule of law," the letter said.

According to Yediot Aharonot, former judges and legal advisers begged Shaked to rethink her decision. The concern, they said, was that changing how legal advisers are chosen would harm the rule of law.

"We suggest reconsidering the new law," they said. "In our opinion, it would be appropriate to completely oppose such an initiative."

According to them, involvement such as this in the appointment of legal advisers "allows for the appointment of relatives or legal advisers who identify with the political ideas of the appointing minister.... The very fact that a minister is doing the appointing may harm the legal adviser's professional image."

The judges also attacked Shaked for suggesting each minister be given more authority over his office.

"This opinion does not appeal to us, and it does not justify changing the way legal advisers are appointed. A legal adviser to a government office is the representative of the entire public and all of Israel's residents. Every taxpayer needs his services. Therefore, the suggestion that legal advisers be appointed by the ministers they serve under is unnecessary and not justified."

It should be noted that Supreme Court justices are not appointed by the public, but by a special committee of nine, seven of whom must agree to the appointment. Included in the nine are three Supreme Court representatives, who effectively have the power to veto any nominee.

In November 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to compromise, allowing a majority of six committee members to approve justices.