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At tail end of unity government, Knesset nominates new legal adviser

Sagit Afik, who has served in interim capacity since April, set to become next full-time legal adviser for the parliament

Acting Knesset Legal Adviser Sagit Afik at a House Committee discussion in Jerusalem, December 21, 2020. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Acting Knesset Legal Adviser Sagit Afik at a House Committee discussion in Jerusalem, December 21, 2020. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin on Tuesday used the last hours of the existence of a non-interim government in Israel — before it dissolved and elections were called for the fourth time in under two years — to announce the nomination of attorney Sagit Afik as the next Knesset legal adviser.

Afik has been serving as the parliament’s acting legal adviser since April, when the previous longtime legal adviser Eyal Yinon ended his tenure after 10 years.

Afik couldn’t be appointed as full-time legal adviser because the country was ruled at the time by an interim government that cannot tap anyone for that position.

Her appointment will need to be approved by the Knesset House Committee.

Around 11 p.m., barely an hour before elections were called, Levin, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, sent a letter to House Committee Chairman Eitan Ginzburg (Blue and White) asking him to call a committee meeting to approve the appointment.

He noted that the request was coordinated with coalition whip Miki Zohar and opposition coordinator Meir Cohen, who both agreed to advance the nomination.

Before becoming the acting Knesset acting legal adviser, Afik served as the legal adviser to the parliament’s Finance Committee for 15 years.

Afik earned a master’s degree in law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1999 she became an assistant to the attorney general, and she had been on the Finance Committee’s legal team since 2001.

In March, the previous Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, decided not to extend Yinon’s tenure.

It came a short while after Yinon became involved in the political drama surrounding the decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after he ruled in January that Edelstein did not have the right to prevent the Knesset plenum from forming a panel that would immediately discuss — and likely would have rejected — Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges.

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon attends a Knesset committee meeting on June 6, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s Likud party had fumed at Yinon over that decision, and filed a High Court petition seeking to disqualify him from dealing with matters related to the prime minister’s corruption cases due to a “serious conflict of interest” stemming from the fact that his wife, Amit Merari, is part of the team of prosecutors who worked on those cases.

Yinon had acknowledged the conflict of interest, but said his legal opinion had no bearing on the actual cases against Netanyahu or the expected immunity proceedings in the Knesset.

The premier ended up pulling his immunity request when it became clear it was going to be rejected.

Netanyahu is standing trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies the charges and claims he is the victim of an attempted “political coup” involving the opposition, media, police and state prosecutors.

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