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Monday, October 05, 2009

1,000 cases pending, three lawyers to handle them

YNet reports that there are some 1,000 cases pending against IDF personnel overseas, and only three lawyers - including attorney general Manny Mazuz - are capable of handling them.
The most recent case involved Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon [pictured with Prime Minister Netanyahu. CiJ], who canceled a trip to London next month for a conference being held by England's Jewish National Fund to raise funds for a house intended for lone soldiers. Ya'alon's office reported Monday, "Minister Ya'alon has avoided visiting England in recent years in light of a legal recommendation so as not to play into the hands of propaganda against Israel, its leaders, and its officers."


Ya'alon accepted the recommendation made by the legal team subordinate to the attorney general that is made up of three lawyers alone: the attorney general himself, Menachem Mazuz, his deputy, Danny Taub, and Attorney Adi Scheiman.


In the meantime, the lawsuits are being addressed through work papers and discussion summaries. The existing system can warn politicians, as well as current and former military and defense establishment officials about destinations in which there are legal claims or arrest warrants out against them. However, to all those involved, it is clear that Israel does not currently have a legal response to the phenomenon.

A long list of current and former ministers and officers cannot travel to many destinations in the world without first conferring with a special team appointed for assessing threats to senior officials. Among those on this dubious list are former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, MK Shaul Mofaz, MK Avi Dichter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minister Ben Eliezer, Ya'alon, and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai.

The military officials who must take extra precautions include Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and all the senior officers below him, including the military prosecution officers who accompanied Operation Cast Lead.

As a rule, even though there is no explicit warning against doing so, most defense establishment officials are avoiding travel to problematic destinations in Europe, such as the Scandinavian countries, Britain, and Spain.

A senior official in the political establishment said to Ynet on Monday that the Israeli government is broadly prepared for dealing with the phenomenon, but agreed that the current situation following the publication of the Goldstone Report is intolerable.
Yaalon was the IDF chief of staff at the time of the Shehadeh targeted killing. Haaretz reports that Israel's legal team concluded that unlike Ehud Barak, who avoided arrest in England last week, Yaalon may not be entitled to diplomatic immunity.

The 'lawfare' cases are the likely reason for the 'secrecy' behind IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's visit to France on Sunday to meet with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and French Chief of the Defense Staff Jean-Louis Georgelin.

By the way, Haaretz indicates that the Barak case was not dismissed as had been previously reported.
In 2004, when pro-Palestinian groups sought the arrest of then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz during a visit to London, a judge ultimately ruled that he did have diplomatic immunity, and could therefore not be arrested.

During last week's incident with Barak, Britain's Foreign Office asked the court to uphold this precedent. But since the hearing was postponed, whether it will do so remains unknown.
Does the issue need to be relitigated every time? England is a common law system - shouldn't there be value to precedent?

But what I really don't understand about this story is why there are only three lawyers. There are hundreds of unemployed and underemployed lawyers in this country. Why isn't the government or the IDF hiring them to deal with these cases? Israel has embassies in all of the countries in question. Don't these embassies have a local law firm that represents their interests? This makes absolutely no sense to me, and as YNet notes, with the Goldstone Report out, this is only going to get worse.


At 6:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - the larger question is why is Israel reacting defensively rather than taking lawfare to the enemy side? When you play defense, you lose. And the disclosure that only three lawyers are assigned to this global campaign against Israel is an indication the government doesn't take it seriously.

When will it?

What could go wrong indeed


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