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Menachem Mazuz made head of senior appointments panel, over right-wing objections

Interior Minister Shaked fails to block former AG and Supreme Court justice; move has raised intense ire in opposition

Supreme Court Justice Meni Mazuz at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Supreme Court Justice Meni Mazuz at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

The cabinet on Sunday approved the appointment of former Supreme Court justice and attorney general Menachem “Meni” Mazuz, 67, as chairman of the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, despite furious objections from the opposition as well as some members of the coalition.

The appointment has particular significance at present due to the interim government’s intention to appoint a new IDF chief of staff, which will need the approval of the appointments committee. Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara recently approved the idea of selecting a new army chief despite the government’s transitional status, citing major security challenges.

Mazuz replaces previous chairman Eliezer Goldberg, who passed away in March, and will serve for an eight-year period.

The selection of the liberal Mazuz was bitterly opposed by right-wing parties in the opposition who objected to the veteran jurist on political grounds, and further insisted that an interim government not engage in appointments to key positions.

Yamina leader and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked had called on Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to veto Mazuz’s appointment, as was his right, but he declined to do so.

She said that there were more consensual candidates for the committee chairman position and said that “broad agreement” within the government was critical during an interim period leading up to elections.

Bennett insisted that the appointment was crucial in order to progress with the selection of a new army chief.

“It would be irresponsible not to appoint a new IDF chief of staff in this sensitive security period with Lebanon and Gaza, so I will not use the veto,” Bennett said during the cabinet meeting. “We must put security needs above politics.”

Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett testifying at the commission of inquiry into Nahal Tzafit disaster in Tel Aviv, August 1, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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.

The first appointment to come before Mazuz and his committee will likely be the government’s candidate for a new IDF chief of staff. Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seeking to appoint a new army chief and is expected to decide between the remaining two candidates, major generals Eyal Zamir and Herzi Halevi, in the coming weeks.

Candidates for IDF chief of staff Major Generals Eyal Zamir (right) and Herzi Halevi (left) are seen in official, undated photographs. (Israel Defense Forces)

Head of the Religious Zionism party Bezalel Smotrich panned the decision to appoint Mazuz and accused government members of hypocrisy for having previously sought to block the appointment of senior civil servants by right-wing interim governments.

“The left-wing government is teaching us how to rule. They do not stop at red lights,” he said.

Mazuz is best remembered for indicting former prime minister Ehud Olmert on graft charges when he was attorney general. He also indicted former president Moshe Katsav for sex offenses and former finance minister Avraham Hirschson for corruption.

He decided not to indict former prime minister Ariel Sharon in a corruption case that was dubbed the Greek island affair.

Mazuz voiced fierce criticism of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December, accusing him of leading efforts to suppress Israel’s judicial system.

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