AG said to okay termination of Justice Ministry head, amid calls to block move
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AG said to okay termination of Justice Ministry head, amid calls to block move

Critics claim Emi Palmor axed by Likud Minister Amir Ohana to be replaced by a PM ally; Mandelblit reportedly chose not to intervene after she agreed to step down

Justice Minister Amir Ohana (L) with Justice Ministry director general Emi Palmor during a welcome ceremony for Ohana at the ministr in Jerusalem on June 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Amir Ohana (L) with Justice Ministry director general Emi Palmor during a welcome ceremony for Ohana at the ministr in Jerusalem on June 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Amir Ohana reportedly notified Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in advance of his intention to fire his ministry’s director general. But Mandelblit decided not to intervene in the case after Emi Palmor agreed to step down, despite calls to block what was accused of being a politically motivated move, according to a report on Tuesday.

Critics blasted Tuesday’s abrupt termination of Palmor, which they claimed was carried out by the Likud minister to enable an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take over the sensitive post.

The move came as a shock to many in the judiciary, since there had been no prior warning and no explanation was publicly given.

Ohana had been in touch with the attorney general for several weeks regarding his desire to replace Palmor, according to the Kan public broadcaster. Mandelblit authorized the move because the director general’s disposal was to be considered a resignation and not a firing, the report said.

Moreover, the attorney general reasoned that while Ohana is a minister in a transitional government with limited powers, this particular case is unique given that the caretaker cabinet’s tenure is twice as long due to the Knesset’s decision to dissolve itself for the second time in one year and go to elections.

Other officials in the Justice Ministry were also notified as Ohana put forward several candidates to replace Palmor, whom they rejected due to their incompatibility or lack of experience, the network said.

Ohana announced earlier on Tuesday that he was replacing Palmor with Lt. Col. (res.) Ophir Cohen, an advocate for IDF reservists. Palmor had previously served under both the right-wing Ayelet Shaked and left-leaning Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu opponents blasted the firing as politically motivated, arguing that a minister in a transitional government should not be making such permanent decisions.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, the leader of the Israel Democratic Party, urged Mandeblit to block Palmor’s termination.

Palmor sat on the committee that will be responsible for appointing a new state prosecutor, who will take over for Shai Nitzan in December and will be responsible for managing the criminal probes into prime minister. The premier is reportedly bent on preventing the lead prosecutor in his corruption investigations, Liat Ben-Ari, from being given the job.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (R) and Justice Ministry director general Emi Palmor at the opening of the seminar with the European Union in Jerusalem on February 20, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Some critics of Ohana’s move also pointed to a social media post two days earlier by Netanyahu’s son Yair, who called Palmor a “leftist.”

Both Ohana and the Likud party rejected the speculation, saying that a minister frequently chooses the director of the office he or she runs.

“The accepted practice is for a minister to appoint a director general. It’s a position of trust — to do otherwise would be the anomaly… This is what governance looks like,” Ohana said in a statement, adding that he made the decision on his own.

“In recent weeks, I’ve spoken to Emi Palmor about concluding her term, and she expressed a willingness and agreement to finish. There is no truth to the wild speculations about the decision, which was made by me and me alone,” the new minister added.

“A left-wing justice minister would have switched directors in two hours to ensure his/her policies were executed. Justice Minister Ohana decided to replace the ministry’s director a few weeks ago and any claims trying to connect his decision with [social media] posts from two days ago is nothing more than fake news,” said the Likud in a statement.

Ohana, a Netanyahu loyalist, was appointed to his position early last month after the prime minister fired Shaked ahead of this September’s repeat Knesset elections.

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, as well as in Israel’s history.

Though only in office for until September’s vote, Ohana quickly courted controversy when he suggested in a TV interview last month that it was not always appropriate to adhere to High Court of Justice rulings — particularly when the ruling could endanger lives. The remark drew widespread criticism, including from Netanyahu.

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