Facing down the High Court of Justice, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Thursday stuck to her guns on the need to appoint judge Menachem Mazuz as permanent head of a vetting committee for senior officials.
Last week, the High Court of Justice challenged the decision to appoint Mazuz as chairman of the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee on a permanent basis by what is a caretaker government.
Baharav-Miara said she okayed the eight-year posting due to the urgent need for the committee to review and approve the appointment of a new military chief. The court last week questioned why Mazuz should be given the permanent job rather than a temporary posting just to oversee the IDF chief’s appointment. It gave Baharav-Miara until Thursday to explain her position.
Baharav-Miara’s response, made on behalf of the state, acknowledged the need for “considerations of restraint” during an election period, but argued that a temporary appointment would undercut the authority of the government and the panel, and that only a long-term position would guarantee the panel’s independence.
“The appointment of a committee chairman on a temporary or ‘ad hoc’ basis… creates an opening for the erosion of the independent and very important status of the committee’s members as gatekeepers,” she wrote in the response.
She argued that her decision, while it had its own downsides, would best serve the regulations of the committee, codified in 2018, with the purpose of “severing any connection between the members of the committee and the political level, and to rule out any fear of even the appearance that members of the committee are trying to please the politicians in examining sensitive appointments.”
Mazuz, a former attorney general and Supreme Court justice, was appointed chair of the committee for an eight-year period last month, in a step that generated fierce objections from the opposition and right-wing lobbying groups, due to the judge’s liberal positions. He has indicated he will not agree to a temporary appointment.
The Senior Appointments Advisory Committee is responsible for vetting candidates for top positions such as heads of the IDF, Israel Police, Shin Bet and Mossad.
If the issue is not resolved, Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi may not be able to take the reins of the military in January as planned. Last week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz nominated Halevi to serve as the IDF chief of staff and replace Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure ends in January 2023.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.