AG says Netanyahu is breaking the law and in violation of conflict of interest deal


Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday that he has violated his conflict of interest agreement that allows him to rule during his ongoing corruption trials and any further involvement in the overhaul judicially “illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest. interest.”

The harshly worded letter from Baharav-Miara came after Netanyahu announced Thursday night that he would now ignore his conflict of interest agreement to dive deep into judicial reform legislation.

The 2020 Agreement barred Netanyahu from making senior law enforcement and judicial appointments or participating in legislative matters that could affect his ongoing trial on corruption charges. Netanyahu’s announcement came hours after the Knesset passed a law to protect him from being removed from office for violating its limits.

“In your speech last night, you referred to the initiatives related to the judicial system, and in particular to the composition of the committee for the appointment of judges, and you announced that you are now directly involved in those initiatives,” wrote Baharav-Miara.

“In doing so, you violated the ruling of the Supreme Court, and accordingly, as a Prime Minister accused of crimes, you must refrain from taking actions that would give rise to a reasonable apprehension of a personal conflict of interest . interests related to the criminal proceedings and your role as prime minister,” she wrote.

“You publicly announced last night that you intend to defy the ruling of the Supreme Court, and act contrary to the opinion of the Attorney General, which obliges you according to this ruling,” she said, concluded “your statement last night and further. Actions you take that violate that agreement are completely illegal and a conflict of interest.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement to the nation regarding the judicial overhaul on March 23, 2023. (Screenshot)

Baharav-Miara also clarified to Netanyahu that the legislation passed on Thursday to remove him from office did not cancel his conflict of interest agreement.

The consequences of Netanyahu’s violations were not immediately clear, but it appeared that he could be held in contempt of court if he continues to violate the order.

In response, a source close to Netanyahu, who is on a trip to London, denied the accusations.

“All sensible people understand that, at this time of national crisis which has internal and external consequences for the State of Israel, the prime minister must act to try to reach a national consensus as wide as possible, to prevent violence and to ensure law and order. and the day-to-day functioning of the state,” said the source.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has not violated any Supreme Court ruling or conflict of interest resolution,” they said.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday has no impact on his personal affairs. In any case, Prime Minister Netanyahu has already informed the Supreme Court that any new judge selected by the Judicial Selection Committee will not directly or indirectly handle the affairs of the Prime Minister,” the official said.

Speaking on Thursday, Netanyahu said his government will continue to address the plan “responsibly,” aiming to pass a central tenet of the overhaul next week.

On Thursday morning, the Knesset finalized a law to protect Netanyahu from forcing the High Court to take leave of absence.

“Until today my hands were tied,” Netanyahu said. “So tonight I announce to you, no more.”

Confirming his intention to be actively involved, Netanyahu said he was, “putting all other issues aside” and “will do everything I can to find a solution for the benefit of our people, our state.”

Police use horses to disperse Israelis protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government plans to reform the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, March 23, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The prime minister tried to strike a conciliatory tone in his speech, acknowledging that both proponents and opponents of the legislation have valid concerns and saying he would take action to address both. But he also confirmed that his government will not pause its legislative sprint and will look to pass one of the most important elements of the plan next week – a bill to put key Supreme Court appointments directly under coalition control.

“The law that will pass in the Knesset next week is a law that the court does not rule – it balances and diversifies it,” he declared. “It opens the doors of the court to views and communities and huge sectors that have been excluded from it until now.”

Netanyahu argued that “we don’t want a controlled court, we want a balanced court.”

Opposition leaders have said they will not negotiate the reform until the coalition takes a legislative recess, and will not participate in the upcoming April Knesset recess if the judicial appointments law passes first.

Netanyahu’s speech came amid mounting protests against his government and the first signs of a possible rebellion within the Likud.

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