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Rubinstein Letter Draws Barak's Ire

Monday, August 27, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has reacted sharply to a private opinion letter from Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein leaked to the press in which the government's chief lawyer makes an impassioned case that Barak has no moral authority to pursue a hasty, election-eve peace deal with the Palestinians.

In the controversial letter delivered five days ago, Rubinstein wrote that while Barak's efforts may be technically legal, he questioned both the premier's moral authority to engage in fateful negotiations just prior to the election, as well as the very wisdom of agreeing to the US bridging proposals under discussion. Rubinstein also suggests Barak has misused a legal provision by resigning and then running in the special election for prime minister only.

Largely due to his professional position, Rubinstein was part of Barak's negotiating team at the failed Camp David summit in July, although many contend he privately has been skeptical of the direction of the Oslo process in recent years.

With the letter now a matter of public record, Barak on Tuesday launched a blistering attack on Rubinstein, calling his note "strange" and unprofessional. In an interview on ISRAEL RADIO, Barak said the letter dealt with "political issues" and expressed Rubinstein's personal world view. He charged the letter was not consistent with Rubinstein's recent legal advice to the Cabinet. Barak also noted he was upset the letter appeared in the press before he had read it properly.

Actually, the letter was sent five days ago and was released by Rubinstein's office while he was out of the country only after giving Barak sufficient time to review it.

Sources in the prime minister's office today said Barak expected Rubinstein to hand in his resignation. Publicly, Barak only said he would meet with Rubinstein when he returned from abroad today. The attorney general said that he had no intention of resigning.

Oddly, dovish Justice Minister Yossi Beilin came to Rubinstein's defense, saying that while he believed the letter did not bar the government from engaging in talks with the Palestinians, he would not remain "for a single minute" in a government that fired the attorney general, who he referred to as a true professional. Beilin told ISRAEL RADIO that he disagrees with Rubinstein's opinion, and referred to the faltering negotiations by adding "there is nothing more moral than to try to prevent violence at this very moment."

Following are excerpts of Rubinstein's letter to Barak:

"While there is no legal limitation on a government during an election period, the legal consideration is not the central one. The instructions of the law are designed only to prevent the creation of a vacuum in authority - and not for the setting of dramatic, fateful, all-encompassing changes such as an agreement with the Palestinians."

"There is a great distance between the paralysis of the government that the promulgators of the law wished to avoid, and dramatic moves.

"An election-eve agreement with the Palestinians should be such that it does not raise even the suspicion that it was subject to time-related considerations - namely, election considerations. Thus, great care and constant awareness of these suspicions is required, and even more so in the case of a minority government whose prime minister has resigned.

"The agreement being negotiated is different than all its predecessors. This one deals with the setting of the borders of the nation, the extent of its capital, including concessions in territory, and including, to my great sorrow, the tearing apart of the nation both by the decision and its implementation. [These are] decisions that will be difficult to withdraw from. All of these are great reasons for much care to be taken.

"I raise doubt as to the moral authority of the government while the resigned prime minister awaits re-election, and when the president of the United States, who is acting as midwife for the agreement, will no longer bear any responsibility for the implementation of the agreement since his days at the White House are over - and [because] the operative meaning of the agreement will be the removal of settlements, dramatic changes in Jerusalem that cut into the very essence of the city, etc.

"The government is the representative of the entire public, and thus should carefully weigh heavy nation-dividing decisions made during its waning hours. I bring to your attention the laws enacted in the Knesset protecting Jerusalem, and the law requiring a majority of 61 for changes in the borders of the sovereign territory of Israel. Such diplomatic agreements must be presented to the Knesset for approval, and considering the current parliamentary situation it can be assumed that this would not be done before the elections, but rather upon the establishment of a new government.

"I also raise doubt as to the ability of the Palestinians to honor the agreement, both from a security standpoint and in terms of their willingness to maintain true legal relations with Israel.

"I oppose the agreement regarding the Temple Mount. I doubt that there is room for expecting generosity from the Palestinians in their recognizing our connection to the Temple Mount.

"I do not want to put barriers against the efforts for peace, but it is my obligation to say what I have said."

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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Worthy Christian News » World News » Rubinstein Letter Draws Barak's Ire