The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Contribution of 01/09/2015
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Database of the CAHDI "The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" - contribution of Israel - 01/09/2015

1. What is the title, rank and position of the Legal Adviser?

(September 2015)

In the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Legal Adviser is one of the Deputies of the Director General, directly subordinate to the Director General (we have attached for your convenience, a diagram of the structure of the Israel Foreign Ministry). Administratively, the Legal Adviser is directly subordinate to the Director General, while professionally he is subordinate to the Israeli Attorney General, as are all the Legal Advisers in Israel's respective ministries. In addition to his title as Legal Adviser, the Legal Advisor also holds the diplomatic rank of ambassador.

2. What are the principal functions of the OLA?

The Office of the Legal Adviser provides a number of important functions which serve to facilitate and advance the Government of Israel's foreign policy objectives. The OLA provides legal advice, including legal opinions, to the Ministry's top political level (the Foreign Minister, the Deputy Foreign Minister and the Director General), as well as to diplomats at headquarters and abroad on a wide range of issues. Under the Legal Adviser and the Deputy Legal Adviser, the OLA is divided into three departments which serve to carry out this mission:

• The Treaties Department, together with the other pertinent government ministries and authorities, as applicable, coordinates the negotiation and drafting of both bilateral and multilateral treaties. This department also oversees the entire ratification process following the signing of an Agreement, including the assimilation of Israel's treaty obligations on the domestic plane. The treaties department also maintains an archive of all of Israel's bilateral treaties.

• The Diplomatic and Civil Law Department provides the necessary support for the proper operation and functioning of the Foreign Ministry. This includes, Inter alia, handling complex employment and contractual issues both in Israel and abroad and managing the Ministry's properties abroad. The department also oversees matters relating to diplomatic, consular and organizational immunities and consular and notary issues from the legal perspective. Additionally, it works in cooperation with the department of international affairs in the Ministry of Justice on issues of Extradition and Legal Assistance.

• The International Law Department provides legal advice on a variety of pressing public law issues relating to the political process, natural resources, human rights, the laws of armed conflict, terrorism, environmental law, and other urgent legal matters. The department provides legal support for various initiatives in the multilateral arena (UN and UN bodies and agencies, international tribunals etc.)

The work of the OLA is also supported by three Legal Advisers at the UN headquarters in NY, in the Hague and in Geneva, which serve to further carry out the mission of the Foreign Ministry.

3. Please give a brief description of staff employed by the OLA, including overseas staff. What is the distribution of posts between men and women within the OLA and what category of staff do they respectively belong to?

There are currently 27 lawyers working in the Office of the Legal Adviser in Jerusalem and abroad, of whom 17 are women. Furthermore, In terms of the senior management, all three Directors of the aforementioned departments are women; two out of three of the legal advisers abroad (the Hague, Geneva) are also women. There are 4 articled clerks who work in the OLA for a year-long clerkship; in 2015 – all four articled clerks are women, in 2016 – three out of four articled clerks will be women. In addition there are approximately 7 administrative staff members, and a number of students who work as paralegals. The junior staff is distributed amongst the departments according to needs, with currently 8 full-time lawyers in the Diplomatic and Consular Department; 9 full-time lawyers in the Department of International Law; and 5 full-time lawyers in the treaties department.

4. Are there any specific recruitment and promotion policies, provisions and/or quotas to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunities, e.g. for the underrepresented sex, for persons with disabilities or for persons belonging to ethnic or religious minorities or of immigrant origin?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs employs staff in accordance with the principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunities and in line with the relevant laws and regulations such as the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law 5748-1988. All appointments are made in accordance with the required legal procedures and requirements of the Civil Service Commission. Any additional and new post at the OLA must be specifically designed to recruit underrepresented minorities. Such a tender was published in July 2014.

5. Is OLA staff trained on gender equality issues and are these issues mainstreamed into the OLA’s work?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a specialized Gender Equality Comissioner who works towards the advancement of equality and equal opportunities between men and women and participates in all appointment proceedings in the Ministry. The Gender Equality Comissioner and Human resources are aided by the OLA in issues of gender equality, with the latter also involved in the area of sexual harassment training.

6. Briefly describe the organisation and structure of the OLA.

The Office of the Legal Adviser is headed by the Legal Adviser and a Principle Deputy who oversee the entire department. As noted above, the OLA is comprised of three departments, the International Law Department, the Treaties Department and the Diplomatic and Civil Law Department. Additionally, as also noted above, three Legal Advisers are posted abroad – the Legal Adviser of the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, the Legal Adviser of the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva and the Legal Adviser of the Israeli Embassy in the Hague.

7. What is the OLA’s place within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

The OLA plays a central role in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As previously noted, the OLA assists the Ministry's top managerial level in the decision making process, and much weight is given to its advice and opinions.

8. What are the main contacts of the OLA within Government?

The Office of the Legal Adviser works with various governmental departments, agencies and authorities, including, inter alia, the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Health and the Directorate of Courts. The OLA also works closely with the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to ensure the proper implementation of Israel's international legal obligations on the domestic plane. Moreover, the OLA serves to ensure that Israel's foreign policy considerations are properly reflected in proceedings before national courts, including before the Israeli Supreme Court. Additionally, the OLA has a special role in the implementation of IHL and International Human Rights Law in civil and military bodies.

9. Please describe the relations of the OLA with lawyers in private practice, academics and legal institutions.

Traditionally, the Office of the Legal Adviser has strong ties with the academic community and with civil society and is in constant engagement, both formal and informal, with a variety of non-state actors, including informal consultations and public appearances and lectures. In various matters, including those related to local law abroad or embassies and consulates, we are also in contact with local, private practitioners.

10. Please provide a brief bibliography on the OLA, if available.

There is no bibliography on the OLA. However, information regarding the OLA can be found on the Foreign Ministry website, see the useful link.