AG tells High Court she opposes petition to disqualify Ben Gvir as cabinet minister

Baharav-Miara says choice of national security minister ‘entails considerable difficulties’ given his criminal past, but argues PM is granted ‘broad discretion’ in such choices

Composite photo: Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, left, during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 21, 2022; Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks at Tel Aviv University on September 28, 2022. (Flash90)
Composite photo: Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, left, during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 21, 2022; Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks at Tel Aviv University on September 28, 2022. (Flash90)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara indicated Sunday that she does not oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s December decision to appoint far-right Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir to the senior post of national security minister after a rights group filed a High Court petition seeking to overturn the move.

In January, the High Court struck down Shas leader Aryeh Deri’s appointment to the cabinet, calling his position in the cabinet “unreasonable in the extreme” due to his criminal convictions.

But Baharav-Miara told the High Court that Ben Gvir’s appointment did not cross into that territory. In her Sunday response to a petition filed by the Tag Meir organization, the attorney general noted that the Otzma Yehudit chief’s role as national security minister “entails considerable difficulties” but that it was “not unreasonable in the extreme” for him to have the cabinet position.

She pointed to a slew of Ben Gvir’s past activities, including his arrests, racist and anti-LGBTQ statements and incendiary behavior, arguing that it harms “public trust in government authorities,” in particular the National Security Ministry.

However, she wrote, the prime minister has “very broad discretion” in making cabinet appointments and noted that Ben Gvir’s criminal offenses occurred many years ago and that he has not been indicted for any criminal behavior since 2007. The attorney general pointed out that the 15 years that have passed are far greater than the seven years required by Basic Law between a conviction and holding public office.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to the plenum in the Knesset on March 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Baharav-Miara also cited Ben Gvir’s promises that he no longer identified with the racist worldview of Rabbi Meir Kahane, “and explained to his supporters repeatedly that such ideas… are not acceptable to him today.” Ben Gvir did still attend and speak at a memorial event for Kahane last year.

The petition against the Otzma Yehudit chair was first filed in late December — before Ben Gvir was sworn in as a minister — by Tag Meir, which claimed that the far-right firebrand was unqualified to be appointed as minister in charge of the police due to his repeated involvement in efforts to disturb the public order.

But at the time, Baharav-Miara called on the High Court to reject the petition for being “premature.” The attorney general said then that “the discussion is theoretical if it takes place before ministers are appointed or begin in their roles.”

Since then, however, Ben Gvir and Baharav-Miara have clashed repeatedly, with the minister making several public calls for the attorney general to be fired.

In a letter to fellow coalition party chiefs earlier this month, Ben Gvir claimed Baharav-Miara’s approach since the December 29 establishment of the hardline coalition has been to “automatically reject any decision or bill backed by the government or those related to it.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara makes her way to a government meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Baharav-Miara supported the High Court ruling earlier this month which said that Ben Gvir may not issue operational orders to police forces regarding how they manage demonstrations and the use of force during protests.

The attorney general told the court that Ben Gvir may have “crossed the line” in his recent interventions with police affairs and operational matters and must refrain from giving operational instructions to the police “under the guise of alleged policy directives.”

Also this month, Ben Gvir filed his own petition to the High Court asking it to authorize his request for private legal representation or allow him to represent himself, citing his lack of faith in Baharav-Miara’s ability to faithfully represent his positions in such legal proceedings.

Most Popular
read more: