Menu JTA Search

Zamir Hopes New Attorney General Will Withstand ‘outside Pressures’

Yitzhak Zamir, who ended more than seven years as Attorney General last Wednesday when the government replaced him with Tel Aviv District Court Judge Yosef Harish, said in a weekend radio interview that he was sure his successor would uphold the supremacy of the rule of law which, Zamir said, had always been his own guiding principle.

“I hope that my successor, my friend, Judge Harish, will have the strength to withstand the outside pressures, to disregard extraneous considerations and see in front of him, as his principle lighthouse, the law and his conscience. If he does that, he won’t go wrong,” said Zamir whose departure was attributed by many to his refusal to bow to political pressure.

Although Zamir had announced several months ago that he intended to resign, he was replaced by the government in the midst of a burgeoning scandal over a “senior official” he was determined to prosecute for alleged obstruction of justice. The official is generally acknowledged to be Avraham Shalom, head of Shabak, or Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security and counter-espionage service.

SHIN BET OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF PERJURY

According to Zamir, Shalom resorted to perjury and other illegal acts to quash an investigation into the unexplained deaths of two Arab terrorists while in custody of security agents in April, 1984. The Attorney General had ordered a police probe which was opposed by most Cabinet ministers, including Premier Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

The former Attorney General refused to discuss the case in the interview, though he defended his insistence on an investigation as an example of the rule of law.

Zamir spoke at some length of the office of Attorney General, the holder of which must serve two masters. “On the one hand, the Attorney General serves as the legal advisor to the government. And on the other hand, he serves as the guardian of the law and of the civil liberties of the citizenry. And in the second capacity, the Attorney General must, time and again, be in conflict with the government as a body or with individual ministers,” he said.

He said that despite the difficulties and complexities of the job, “successive Attorneys General and governments have found the proper balance and have enabled the whole system to work properly for the benefit of the State.” However, Zamir stressed, “if a conflict should arise, the Attorney General is bound to give priority to the law over and above the demands of government.”

He suggested that people who charged him with political motivations in the way he had applied the law, were probably themselves politically motivated, “or perhaps they did not understand my decisions.” He was apparently referring to the rightwing and religious elements who had been demanding his ouster for allegedly being too liberal and too independent. He aroused their be last year by his vigorous and successful prosecution of a Jewish terrorist underground in the West Bank convicted of crimes of violence against Arabs.

NEXT STORY