Attorney general to oppose judicial makeover in talk with justice minister — report

Gali Baharav-Miara said set to meet with Yariv Levin next week, express her view that government legal plan contradicts basic principles of Israeli democracy

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference in Haifa on January 12, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference in Haifa on January 12, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara will meet with Justice Minister Yariv Levin next week to express her opposition to the government’s plan to weaken the judiciary, a Monday report said.

Baharav-Miara and her associates oppose central parts of the government’s planned judicial overhaul, viewing the proposed changes as contrary to the basic principles of Israeli democracy, Channel 13 reported.

The attorney general opposes the proposal’s clauses that will weaken the Supreme Court so that it will not be able to strike down legislation and policies deemed unconstitutional, that will grant the government control over the panel that selects judges, and that will remove the court’s ability to judge government decisions based on a “reasonableness” test, the unsourced report said.

Netanyahu and his government have backed the reforms as necessary to rebalance power between an activist judiciary and the people’s elected representatives. Baharav-Miara, the Supreme Court president, and political opposition leaders have attacked the reforms as destructive to democracy and dangerous to civil liberties.

Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the overhaul will impact Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch, and leaving minorities undefended.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin attends a hearing of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee, January 11, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, Baharav-Miari condemned the government’s proposals during a legal conference.

Baharav-Miara said the plan will create an “imbalanced system of checks and balances,” and that “the principle of majority rule will push other democratic values into a corner.”

She also criticized the vitriolic attacks on state legal advisers and prosecutors, saying such attacks were “irresponsible” and were giving rise to “aggression” against such legal professionals in courts and other public places.

At the same conference, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut denounced the government’s plans in an extraordinary speech, warning that the judicial restructuring would deal a “fatal blow” to Israel’s democratic identity.

A deputy attorney general on Monday decried the government’s proposal to make ministry legal advisers’ counsel nonbinding, one of the points being pushed under Levin’s judicial reform plan.

“The government will not be above the law; it will be the law,” Gil Limon, deputy attorney general for public administrative law, told the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.

Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon (center) speaks at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on January 16, 2023. (Dani Shem-Tov/Knesset)

Reforming the court has been a major conservative goal for over a decade, with many on the right and among the ultra-Orthodox frustrated by what they see as an activist bench made up of progressives undermining the country’s right-wing majority.

Levin on Monday argued that the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases convinced the public of the need to reduce the powers of the judiciary, for the first time linking his controversial package of laws aimed at reining in the courts to the premier’s legal travails.

Netanyahu is on trial in three corruption cases, facing charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies wrongdoing and claims the charges were fabricated in an attempted political coup led by the police, the state prosecution, the media, and leftist rivals.

Levin announced the judicial overhaul two weeks ago and published draft legislation last week. A Monday report said Justice Ministry professionals are set to formulate their positions for the sweeping reforms in the next three weeks.

On Saturday evening, an estimated 80,000 Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv, with additional demonstrations in Jerusalem and Haifa, to protest the government’s judicial reform plan. A counter-protest in support of the plan is being planned for later this week.

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