Levin hints he may end up firing attorney general; she says threats not daunting her

‘Everything should be done in due time,’ justice minister says, adding that before legal overhaul passes, High Court could intervene; adds he hopes Baharav-Miara will ‘get a grip’

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara attends a conference at Haifa University on December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara attends a conference at Haifa University on December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Justice Minister Yariv Levin appeared to make a threat Tuesday that he could fire Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara in the future, as the hardline government continued to find itself at odds with its most senior legal representative over a series of bills aimed at weakening the country’s judiciary.

Levin was asked during a live interview at the B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference whether the government might fire the attorney general, who has urged it against implementing the judicial overhaul.

Levin responded: “We are not dealing with her dismissal at the moment because we are focusing on [passing the judicial] reform. We can’t do everything at once. In the current situation, had we taken such a step, the High Court would have intervened. For these reasons, everything should be done in due time, so I want to hope she will perhaps get a grip and understand her job isn’t to impede the minister and act behind his back.”

Baharav-Miara’s office issued a statement later Tuesday saying that “the threat of dismissal will not deter the attorney general from fulfilling her duties.”

Baharav-Miara has come under heightened criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his government in recent days for refusing to allow the prime minister to involve himself in the government’s legal shakeup plans. The attorney general ruled that doing so would violate the conflict of interest agreement that bars the premier from involvement in any legislation that could impact his criminal trial.

On Sunday, the chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Simcha Rothman, accused the attorney general of sending her deputies to “mislead the public” and “manipulate public opinion” regarding the overhaul.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Justice Minister Yariv Levin during a vote in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Baharav-Miara in turn accused Rothman of trying to silence her representatives and said they would continue to fill their roles, including at the Knesset hearings run by the committee chair.

The legal overhaul, advanced by Levin and backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would grant the government total control over the appointment of judges, including to the High Court, severely limit the High Court’s ability to strike down legislation, and enable the Knesset to re-legislate laws the court does manage to annul with a bare majority of just 61 MKs.

Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms would undermine Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended. The plan’s backers argue that the judicial branch has too much power and should not be able to strike down decisions backed by the cabinet and the Knesset, which represent the will of the majority.

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