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 join his government’s efforts to fundamentally change the legal and judicial system because of a conflict of interest due to his ongoing corruption trial. is

In a filing with the High Court of Justice a few hours later, Netanyahu said he viewed Baharav-Miara’s position on the matter as “unacceptable.” He also requested two weeks for a full reply to his letter.

The Attorney General’s announcement drew a sharp reaction from the heads of all the coalition leaders, who in a joint statement said it flew in the face of the “clear mandate” received by the government in the elections.

Baharav-Miara’s warning followed a petition filed at the High Court of Justice by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel last month, seeking that the attorney general be one of the interests of Netanyahu after he takes office once again as prime minister in January. Updated conflict adjustment drawing.

Also on Thursday, Haaretz Daily reported that the threat level for Baharav-Miara had been raised to the highest possible level, with security agencies citing “real concern” that he could be harmed. The security detail around the Attorney-General will be expanded, the report said.

In her letter, released publicly on Thursday, Baharav-Miara wrote to Netanyahu: “In your role as prime minister, you should avoid initiatives involving the legal system within the framework known as ‘legal reform.’ should

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“This is due to legal proceedings against you, and reasonable suspicion of a conflict of interest between the legislative initiatives and their significant components” that the government is pursuing in its legal reform package, he added.

“This includes any direct or indirect actions or instructions by others, including the involvement of officials serving in your office as political appointees,” the attorney general added.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman M.K. Simcha Rothman leads a committee hearing on his sweeping legal reform agenda on February 1, 2023 with legal counsel to the committee attorney Gur Bligh. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

If Netanyahu is convicted of the corruption charges against him in the trial currently underway in the Jerusalem District Court, he will be able to appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court, with appointments likely to be made by his government during his tenure. is

The prime minister said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday that he was willing to listen to “counter offers” for his government’s proposed comprehensive legal reform package, meaning he would be open to questions about how the reforms are designed and progressed. .

The heads of the coalition parties condemned the attorney general’s letter, saying in a joint statement that his position was “totally at odds with the unequivocal mandate we received from Israeli citizens in the elections,” and that they “totally reject” his stance. done

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There is no connection between the legal reform [Justice Minister] Yariv Levin whose goal is to restore democracy in Israel, and the issue of the prime minister,” he continued, although Levin tied the two during a speech to the Knesset last month.

“Those who have a conflict of interest are actually legal advisors. On the one hand they are fighting reforms in public and in the Knesset, which will affect their position, and on the other hand they are exploiting their position to thwart it.

A Likud spokesman said the statement was issued on behalf of Netanyahu, along with Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknouf, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, Otzma Jew leader Itamar Ben Gvir, and Noam leader Avi Maoz.

The Movement for Quality Government welcomed the attorney general’s warning to Netanyahu, saying the prime minister “must immediately take his hands off the destruction of 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 and accused him of a conflict of interest.

He noted that some of the proposed reforms would affect the position of attorney generals and government legal advisers in general.

“It seems that conflict of interest is a very strange thing. Legal counsel for an elected official is prohibited from speaking about reforms, but the attorney general and his staff are allowed to block reforms that directly affect their powers,” Levin said.

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In January, Baharav-Miara filed an opinion with the High Court that the conflict of interest created by his predecessor Avichai Mandelblit in 2020 for Netanyahu still applies.

Under the provision, Netanyahu cannot be involved in any matters that affect witnesses or other defendants in his trial, or in legislation that affects legal proceedings against him.

He cannot interfere in the position of several top police and prosecution officials, in several areas under the responsibility of the Ministry of Communications, or even in the Judicial Select Committee.

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