Dina Zilber: Israeli Legal Luminary
Dina Zilber, born on August 16, 1970, is a prominent Israeli lawyer known for her significant contributions to the legal landscape of Israel. Her career spans various roles within the Israeli government, where she demonstrated her expertise and commitment to public and administrative law. Between 2012 and 2020, she served as the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Government for Public-Administrative Affairs. Prior to this position, she held a senior prosecutor role in the State Attorney's Office, specializing in the Supreme Court Division.
Early Life and Education
Dina Zilber was born in Latvia but immigrated to Israel with her family in 1972, where she grew up in the city of Holon. She served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as an educational officer, contributing to the understanding of the country's history and values within the IDF's Educational Corps, a unit affiliated with the IDF School for Leadership Development.
Zilber earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in law from Tel Aviv University. She excelled academically and focused her master's thesis on "Representing Minority Interests in Government Bodies." During her studies, she also assumed leadership roles, serving as the head of the Student Council for the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University from 1991 to 1992.
Between 1992 and 1994, she worked as a parliamentary assistant to Member of Knesset Eliezer Zandberg. Her career in the legal profession began as a specialist under the guidance of Attorney Meni Mizrachi in the Ministry of Justice.
Service in the Supreme Court Division
Dina Zilber served as a prosecutor in the Supreme Court Division of the State Attorney's Office for an impressive 16 years, representing the state in approximately 1,600 appeals. Notably, she handled cases related to the arrangement of arguments with Moshe Katzav, the protection of schools in Sderot, and the banning of the film "Jenin, Jenin" (see: Bagatz Kari vs. the Film Review Council). Her tenure in this role showcased her dedication to upholding the law and defending the state's interests.
Deputy Legal Advisor to the Government
In 2012, Zilber was appointed as the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Government, focusing on public-administrative law. She held this position until December 2020. In this capacity, she was responsible for providing legal counsel on various issues, including government operations, immigration laws, women's rights, local governance, and more. Initially, she was also tasked with advising on matters related to Judea and Samaria.
The State Comptroller, Hila Gerstel, determined in 2015 that Zilber and other prosecutors had exerted pressure on Dr. Han Katsav, the director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, to change his professional testimony, accusing them of unethical conduct. Following this, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a complaint with the Government Legal Advisor, Yehuda Mandelblit, alleging criminal misconduct. However, Mandelblit dismissed the allegations in 2017, stating that the prosecutors had followed standard procedures.
In November 2020, just a month before the end of her tenure as Deputy Legal Advisor, Dina Zilber criticized the government and the Likud party, accusing them of "fake leadership." The State Comptroller, Daniel Hershkovitz, approached the Legal Advisor Mandelblit, expressing concerns about Zilber's conduct. He viewed the matter seriously, especially given that Zilber had received a warning about it in the past. Ultimately, Mandelblit decided not to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Zilber, even though her term was ending.
The Settlement Division
In response to the State Comptroller's report regarding the transfer of government budgets to the Settlement Division of the Zionist Federation, Zilber issued an opinion declaring the allocation of budgets to the Settlement Division illegal. She argued that delegating state authority in areas of settlement to a non-governmental body without subjecting it to regulatory and oversight mechanisms required of governmental bodies was unlawful. As part of this stance, Zilber also froze a budget allocated to the Settlement Division for handling settlements in the Gaza periphery. However, approximately 16 months later, this budget was spent against her decision.
In July 2015, Zilber was reprimanded by the Minister of Justice at the time, Ayelet Shaked, for publicly expressing her opposition to a proposed bill by Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich aimed at regulating the legal status of the Settlement Division. Shaked also published an opinion by the Government Legal Advisor, Yehuda Mandelblit, stating that Zilber had acted improperly.
Promoting Women's Rights and Freedom of the Press
Dina Zilber actively intervened in cases where public institutions held events without gender separation or excluded women. She filed a complaint with the Council for Higher Education when Bar-Ilan University barred women from participating in a Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day event. In September 2016, she sent a letter to the Tel Aviv municipality, asserting that they had no authority to cancel the "Singing for Atonement" event at Rabin Square, despite concerns about gender separation. In response to a query by Knesset Member Moshe Gafni, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit clarified that Zilber had acted without proper authority in this case and that she had no jurisdiction to cancel non-governmental events involving gender separation. Shaked also discussed the matter with the Government Legal Advisor, Avichai Mandelblit, who instructed that opinions on sensitive issues related to religion and state should be coordinated with him.
Changing Roles and Reduction of Responsibilities
In August 2017, the government reduced its authority in matters of gender, transferring them to relevant government ministries. Nevertheless, the Government Legal Advisor, Yehuda Mandelblit, announced that Dina Zilber would continue to address fundamental legal aspects of the subject matter on his behalf.
In January 2017, Minister of Justice Shaked and Government Legal Advisor Mandelblit decided to cancel the separate jurisdiction for Judea and Samaria in the Ministry of Justice, where Zilber was responsible for enforcement. This move significantly reduced her responsibilities.
In December 2017, at a public conference commemorating Judge Eliyakim Rubinstein's retirement, Zilber criticized the policies of the Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked. She stated, "Eli's paths of peace have been replaced by paths of strife. This is the spirit of the times, the order of the day, the direction all leaders are pointing to. But the old scribes still insist on heading toward the North Star." Following these remarks, the Government Legal Advisor summoned her for a clarification meeting and instructed her to cease making public criticisms about the elected political hierarchy.
Dina Zilber's career has been marked by her unwavering dedication to the principles of justice and her proactive stance on various legal issues. Her legacy in the Israeli legal system reflects her commitment to upholding the law and advocating for women's rights and freedom of the press.
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