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Committee reviewing criteria for Israel’s top legal position

JERUSALEM, Feb. 13 (JTA) — A committee headed by a former Supreme Court president will work to establish criteria for the appointment of Israel’s attorney general. The committee, headed by former Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, was formed in the wake of the controversial and short-lived appointment last month of Jerusalem lawyer Roni Bar-On as attorney general. The appointment of Bar-On, a veteran Likud activist and criminal lawyer spurred sharp objections in both political and legal spheres. Opponents charged that he lacked the experience to hold Israel’s top legal post. Bar-On stepped down shortly before his scheduled swearing-in. The controversy deepened after an Israel Television report alleged that Bar-On’s appointment was based on a political deal. According to the report, the fervently Orthodox Shas Party agreed to back the Hebron accord in exchange for Bar-On, once appointed, engineering a plea bargain for a Shas leader on trial for fraud. Police are continuing to investigate the allegations. In addition to Shamgar, the committee includes former Justice Ministers David Libai, Chaim Tzadok and Moshe Nissim, as well as Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison. Shamgar said Thursday that the committee would try to establish norms for the position considered “deeply rooted to the rule of law, and politically sensitive.” In Israel, the attorney general holds the dual roles of being a government watchdog as its chief prosecutor, as well as its protector in the role as government legal adviser. The process of appointing an attorney general is not set down in law. The attorney general must be approved by the Cabinet. Generally, candidates are expected to be experienced jurists or academics who could qualify to serve on the High Court of Justice.

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