AG says Netanyahu can’t deal with judicial shakeup amid trial; he rejects her stance

Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he cannot participate in his administration’s efforts to overhaul the legal and judicial system because of a conflict of interest due to his ongoing corruption trial.

In a case submitted to the Supreme Court of Justice hours later, Netanyahu said that he considers Bahar Miara’s position on the matter “unacceptable.” He also requested two weeks to respond to her letter in full.

The Attorney General’s comments drew a sharp reaction from the leaders of all coalition parties, who said in a joint statement that the statement was made in the face of the “unequivocal rule” received by the government in the election.

Bahar-Miara’s warning followed a petition filed last month by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel with the Supreme Court of Justice, asking the attorney general to introduce an updated conflict of interest arrangement for Netanyahu after he was reinstated as prime minister in January. Netanyahu to adjust.

Also on Thursday, Haaretz newspaper reported that Bharav-Miara’s threat level had been raised to the highest possible level and that security agencies could be harmed, citing “genuine concern” that he could be harmed. The report states that the security detail around the Attorney General will be expanded.

In his letter, which was made public on Thursday, Baharav Miara wrote to Netanyahu: “In your role as prime minister, you must refrain from initiatives related to the legal system in the framework known as ‘legal reforms.’

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He continued: “This is due to a reasonable suspicion of a conflict of interest between the issues related to the legal proceedings against you and the set of legal initiatives and its substantive components” that the government is promoting in its legal reform package.

“This includes any actions or orders directly or indirectly through others, including the involvement of officials who serve in your office as political appointees,” the attorney general added.

The chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Simcha Rothman, leads a committee hearing on its sweeping legal reform agenda alongside the committee’s legal adviser, Gur Bligh, February 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Included in the government’s proposed legal overhaul is legislation that would give the government an automatic majority on the judicial selection committee for every court in the country, including the Supreme Court.

If Netanyahu is found guilty of corruption charges in a trial currently being held in the Jerusalem District Court, he could appeal to the Supreme Court, where his administration is likely to make appointments to It will determine.

In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, the prime minister said he would like to hear “counter-proposals” to the sweeping legal reform package his government is proposing, meaning he has a say in how the reforms are drafted and pushed forward.

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Coalition party leaders condemned the attorney general’s letter, saying in a joint statement that his position “completely contradicts the clear mandate we received from Israeli citizens in the election” and that they “totally reject” his position.

There is no connection between the legal reforms [Justice Minister] Yario Levin, whose goal is to restore democracy to Israel and the Prime Minister’s issues.

“Those who have a conflict of interest are actually legal advisors. On the one hand, they fight reforms in public and in the Knesset that affect their status, and on the other hand, they abuse their positions to thwart them.

The Likud spokesman said that the statement was issued by Netanyahu along with Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism leader Isaac Goldknov, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smutrich, Utzma Judaism leader Itamar Ben Goyer and Navam leader Avi Maoz.

The Movement for Quality Government welcomed the attorney general’s warning to Netanyahu, saying the prime minister must “immediately desist from destroying Israel’s legal and democratic system.”

Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Levin, the justice minister, strongly criticized Baharav-Miara’s letter, accusing him of a conflict of interest.

He noted that some of the proposed reforms would generally affect the position of the Attorney General and the government’s legal advisers.

Conflict of interest seems to be a very strange thing. An elected official is prohibited from speaking about the reforms in legal advice, but the attorney general and his staff are allowed to block reforms that directly affect their authority.

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In January, Baharu-Miara submitted an opinion to the Supreme Court that the conflict of interest agreement drawn up for Netanyahu by his predecessor Avichai Mandelbeit in 2020 was still in effect.

According to the agreement, Netanyahu cannot interfere in matters that affect witnesses or other defendants in his trial, or in laws that affect the legal process against him.

He also cannot interfere in the issues related to the status of several senior police and prosecution officials, in several areas under the responsibility of the Ministry of Communications, or in the selection committee of judges.

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