JERUSALEM (Sep. 19)
Israel’s Cabinet has unanimously approved the appointment of Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michael Ben-Yair to be the country’s next attorney general.
The appointment is to take effect Nov. 1, when incumbent Attorney General Yosef Harish is due to retire.
The Cabinet vote Sunday followed a controversy surrounding Ben-Yair’s candidacy that erupted over the Rosh Hashanah holiday weekend. The controversy centered on a claim that Ben Yair is a personal friend of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s son-in-law — and that this had influenced the decision to appoint him.
Justice Minister David Libai, who recommended the candidate to his fellow ministers, termed the accusation “a sordid attempt to blacken the reputation of a judge.”
Libai told his Cabinet colleagues, after discussing the charges with Jerusalem lawyer Boaz Arad, that he was satisfied there were only “wicked rumors” and no hard information to suggest the appointment had been influenced by political considerations.
Ben-Yair’s appointment has aroused intense political interest in light of an ongoing public exchange of recriminations between incumbent Harish and the Shas party.
Officials of the fervently Orthodox party claim that two of its leaders, Aryeh Deri and Rafael Pinhasi, have been victimized by the state prosecution, headed by Harish.
Last week, Deri formally resigned his post as interior minister following a Supreme Court ruling that he and Pinhasi step down as a result of charges of financial misconduct that have been brought against them. Pinhasi was expected to follow suit.