Two members of the government committee that advises on the ethical appropriateness of appointees to the most senior positions in public service resigned Wednesday, in the wake of a High Court ruling questioning their suitability.
The resignations of former national security adviser Yaakov Nagel and Iris Shtark, a noted accountant, allows for two others to be named in their place and will put the appointments of new heads for the Israel Police and the IDF back on track.
The court had ordered a freeze to all proceedings of the four-person committee headed by Eliezer Goldberg, a former Supreme Court justice and state comptroller, following an appeal by the Movement for Integrity watchdog group which insisted that both Nagel and Shtark were too close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Nagel wrote in his resignation letter, “Despite the absurdity of these arguments I ask that you present my request to the government to release me from my position so as not to delay the important appointments the committee is scheduled to discuss in the coming months.”
In his response to the appeal, Justice Menachem Mazuz had expressed concern that as the public representatives on the committee were effectively representatives of the prime minister, Netanyahu could influence the selection of the next police chief in order to in turn influence the outcome of investigations into his affairs.
“Since the prime minister may have a [personal] interest in the identity of the next [police] commissioner, he is forbidden from taking part in the process of selecting the committee that must approve the appointment,” Mazuz wrote.
He suggested that Nagel’s appointment may not satisfy that requirement for distance between the premier and the appointment process. “The NSC head works closely and constantly with the prime minister. If that was the only issue, this would be a debate about whether the year that has passed [since Nagel left the public service] is a sufficient ‘cooling off’ period. But we know that Nagel continued to serve the prime minister in a professional capacity [after leaving office], and has remained tied to the government and the prime minister. Is he a representative of the public or of the government?”
The Goldberg Committee is charged with examining any ethical difficulties that arise in the choice of appointees to the heads of key state agencies, including the IDF, Israel Police, Mossad, Shin Bet and Bank of Israel.
The Goldberg Committee’s fourth member is the serving head of the Civil Service Commission, a post currently held in an acting capacity since May 2017 by Udi Prawer, until recently the head of strategic planning in the Prime Minister’s Office. Prawer is expected to be replaced on the committee in mid-September by Daniel Hershkovitz, the former science minister and president of Bar Ilan University, whose appointment as the new civil service commissioner was ratified Wednesday.
Netanyahu is a suspect in three criminal graft investigations, all of which involve suspicions that he advanced the interests of businesspeople in government in exchange for expensive gifts and positive media coverage. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.