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Israel – A-G rips Justice Minister: Obeying the court is not a choice

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit responded Thursday to Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s statements that there are court decisions which the government may not abide by.

“The State of Israel is a Jewish and Democratic State based on the principle of the rule of law. The obligation to obey the rulings of the courts is a basic element […the duty to obey court rulings is axiomatic] that serves as a guarantee for the protection of the right of every citizen of the state,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.

“It is not a matter of choice. This is a duty incumbent upon every citizen and every governmental authority, whatever it may be.”

Mandelblit also criticized Ohana for suggesting that a file had been opened against him upon his appointment as justice minister.

“It should be said that before the eyes of the law enforcement authorities and the general prosecution – headed by the Attorney General and the State Attorney – there are only substantive and professional considerations, and decisions are made only on the basis of the evidence and legal provisions, and not, heaven forbid, because of a foreign consideration. Law enforcement officials are dedicated public servants who work day and night to protect the citizens of the state, their security, their property, and their welfare,” he said.

“The Attorney General will continue to work in full cooperation with the Minister of Justice and with the Government, while ensuring a fruitful and respectful dialogue,” the statement concluded.

The attorney general’s statement followed similar criticism of Minister Ohana by Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Esther Hayut.

“Following an interview broadcast yesterday with the Justice Minister, it’s important for me to tell you that in my opinion, the fact that a Justice Minister in the State of Israel, on his inauguration day, chooses to share with us an unprecedented and irresponsible legal outlook, according to which not all verdicts handed by a court need necessarily be respected, must be viewed with utmost seriousness,” Hayut said.

“In other words, every litigant will be able, with the Justice Minister’s blessing, to choose which judgment to uphold and which not. I want to say only one thing about this: Between this worldview and the anarchy of ‘every man, what is good in his eyes will do’ – the road is short,” she added.

Mandelblit and Justice Hayut responded to an interview given by Justice Minister Ohana on News 12, during which he was asked about his previous statement that not every court ruling should be observed.

But while Ohana appeared intent on setting the tone for his term — and possibly that of his Likud party if it retains the portfolio — it was unlikely that he would be able to enact any far-reaching policy changes himself. Netanyahu only appointed him to the job as a placeholder, after firing the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked last week.

With new elections in September and the Justice portfolio one of the most coveted in coalition negotiations, Ohana is unlikely to survive in the post for more than a few months, and hardly has the mandate or the means to make sweeping changes while serving in an interim government.

Ohana is a lawyer by training who became the first openly gay MK in a right-wing party when he was elected to the Knesset in 2015. He is now the first openly gay minister in Israel’s history.

Ohana is among the only senior members of Likud to have publicly backed Netanyahu’s drive to secure immunity from prosecution in the cases against him. Earlier this year, he struck out at legal authorities over the Netanyahu investigations, charging that judicial officials, who have announced their intention to charge the prime minister pending a hearing, were usurping the will of the Israeli voters.