Israel: Attorney general says Netanyahu’s role in judicial overhaul is illegal


Israel’s attorney general warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday that he had broken the law by saying he would be personally involved in the government’s highly controversial judicial reform.

Gali Baharav-Miara’s remarks were made in response to Netanyahu’s speech a day earlier in which he promised to press ahead with the reforms, including plans to give the government full control over the committee that appoints judges, which he said would run in the Knesset next. a week.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has promised to pass a key bill next week that would put the power to make appointments to the Supreme Court directly in the hands of the coalition government.

The prime minister’s statement came hours after parliament passed a key piece of legislation on Thursday that would have protected him from being declared unfit for office by the attorney general.

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“Your statement last night, and any action you took [regarding the judicial overhaul] illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest,” Baharav-Miara said.

The attorney general said the amendment to the bill does not exempt him from his obligation to comply with an agreement he signed with the Supreme Court in 2020.

She said this prevents him from being involved in changes to the judicial system while he is on trial for three counts of corruption due to a conflict of interest.

The judicial reforms could enable Netanyahu to avoid conviction or have his case dismissed.

Since his indictment in 2019, Netanyahu has publicly railed against the justice system, claiming it is biased against him.

Now he is indicating that he is willing to ignore the 2020 agreement, waiting until after the Knesset passes legislation protecting him from the attorney general before doing so.

In an open letter blasting Netanyahu, the attorney general said the prime minister’s announcement meant he had broken the law.

“You have 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 fear of a conflict of interest between your personal interests in relation to the. criminal proceedings and your role as prime minister,” wrote Baharav-Miara.

“You publicly announced last night that you intend to violate the Supreme Court’s ruling, and act against the attorney general’s opinion, which obligates you according to this ruling,” she said. .

“Your statement last night and any other actions by you that violate that agreement are completely illegal and a conflict of interest.”

Widespread protests

Israel is in the midst of one of the biggest political crises in its history, pitting Netanyahu’s far-right government against the country’s civil society, the academic and business elite, and former government ministers and military figures.

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Netanyahu’s speech on Thursday came after his summons Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant, before a public intervention where he was expected to call for a halt to the government’s plans to reform the judiciary.

For nearly 12 weeks Israelis have taken to the streets to protest what many believe is a judicial coup by Israel’s far-right government.

Protesters are fighting a plan that would give parliament the power to override the Supreme Court through a simple majority vote, and give lawmakers de facto control over court nominees.

It would also limit the court’s ability to block legislation that violates human and civil rights.

Israel has no constitution and there is little separation between the executive and legislative branches, as governments almost always have a majority in parliament.

This has historically meant that the Supreme Court is the most effective check on government power.

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