Levin said set to name aide with no legal qualifications as Justice Ministry chief

New minister will reportedly tap former adviser Itamar Donenfeld as director general, despite his lack of law degree and experience — reportedly triggering backlash in ministry

Justice Minister Yariv Levin arrives for a group picture of the new government at the president's residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Yariv Levin arrives for a group picture of the new government at the president's residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New Justice Minister Yariv Levin is set to appoint his former political adviser as director general of the Justice Ministry, according to reports in Hebrew media on Monday night, despite the aide having no legal background or qualifications and reported pushback from ministry officials.

Levin, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will seek to appoint Itamar Donenfeld as soon as Wednesday, despite what Channel 13 said was “strong opposition” within the Justice Ministry.

The network said Donenfeld, who has a social sciences degree from Bar Ilan University, would be the first Justice Ministry director general without a law degree to hold the position. If appointed, he would be responsible for carrying out the minister’s policy agenda.

The Civil Service Commission has approved Donenfeld as eligible for the position, the Globes business daily reported on Tuesday.

Levin, a longtime proponent of legal reform, has been tasked with overseeing some of the new government’s most controversial policies. These include judicial changes committed to by all coalition parties that would see the Knesset curtail the court’s oversight power and expand lawmakers’ control over appointments to the bench.

Among other roles, the Justice Ministry director general serves on committees for the appointments of roles such as attorney general and state prosecutor. However, some committees require participants to have at least five to seven years of legal experience, meaning Donenfeld would apparently not be able to participate.

Under the previous minister, Gideon Sa’ar, the position of director general was filled by Eran Davidi, a lawyer with a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi at the Knesset on January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Levin is not the only new minister to appoint a relatively inexperienced director general to his ministry. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi appointed to the role Elad Malka, the founder of a lobbying group called Our Interest – Your Lobby at the Knesset, which seeks greater competition in markets. Before that, Malka was the head of Israel’s Media Watch, an organization that examines media-related policies.

According to the Calcalist business daily, while Malka has some background in media and communications, he lacks experience in the fields of telecommunications, mail and communications infrastructure — the core work of the Communications Ministry.

One of Malka’s first tasks, Karhi said, would be to undo a decision by his predecessor Yoaz Hendel to loosen restrictions on so-called kosher cellphone plans and open up the market, a move that was strongly opposed by many rabbinic authorities and ultra-Orthodox politicians.

Malka has also previously voiced support for privatizing the Kan public broadcaster and even closing the Communications Ministry altogether.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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