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“In the last two to three years, the Netanyahu government has placed a lot of pressure on the attorney general and on [state] lawyers,” said Michael Sfard, the human rights lawyer who represents Palestinian landowners and Israeli nongovernmental organization in most outpost-related cases.
In Sfard’s view, “the role of the minister of justice is to be a shield from such pressures,” and Neeman didn’t live up to this, but he is upbeat about his successor. “I hope that Livni will be more of a shield to such pressures; it seems she’s more respectful of the attorneys in her office.”
Beyond the peace process and outposts, Livni’s legal philosophy remains unclear. A wide spectrum on the left criticized Neeman for his moves to strengthen parliament at the expense of the courts. For example, he initiated a push for a new Basic Law — the closest thing Israel has to articles of a constitution — that would have allowed 65 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers to revive any law that the Supreme Court throws out as illegal.
Yoram Shachar, a law professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said that he expects Livni to be preoccupied mostly with efforts on the peace process and to invest little energy in the Justice Ministry — and no energy in changing the balance of power between legislature and the courts. On the other hand, he added: “Would she further weaken the courts? The answer is an absolute no.”
Contact Nathan Jeffay at email@example.com