Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Thursday said he would immediately appoint a new attorney general if he was given the authority to do so, amid months of ongoing disputes with the government’s chief legal adviser.
In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Levin labeled current Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, whose job also includes heading the state prosecution hierarchy, as an “inheritance from the previous government” that appointed her, adding that the coalition had “no faith” in the official who constantly acted contrary to its wishes.
“It’s very unfortunate, I have to say. The situation is that the government doesn’t have an attorney general. We have an attorney general who is against me, who takes and acts on very extreme positions. So much so that time after time, Supreme Court justices say they don’t understand her positions,” Levin claimed.
Levin grumbled that “the ability to bring someone else, not through an appointment on behalf [of the government], but through an orderly, correct process, does not exist.”
“I would be happy if you gave me this authority. Believe me, I would act on it immediately,” he said.
Levin and other ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have frequently railed against Baharav-Miara for not fairly and adequately representing them, as well as her frequent opposition to government legislation and policies.
In the interview, Levin labeled a High Court hearing earlier Thursday on a law preventing the court or the attorney general from ordering a prime minister to step aside as “theater,” after Baharav-Miara’s lawyer claimed at one point that his client never had such authority, then later clarified that her position was that declaring the prime minister to be incapacitated due to a conflict of interest over his criminal trial could not be ruled out in exceptional circumstances.
The case on the recusal law — which was passed by the Knesset in March — is one of several instances in which Baharav-Miara has refused to defend the government’s position in court, forcing it to hire a private attorney. But if Baharav-Miara did not believe she had the authority to force a prime minister to step aside, the legislation would not have substantively changed the attorney general’s legal authority in the matter.
In her position submitted to the court, Baharav-Miara advised that justices postpone implementation of the law so that it wouldn’t apply to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu is bound by a 2020 conflict of interest agreement drawn up under the auspices of the High Court to allow him to serve as prime minister despite being under criminal indictment.
That agreement prohibits Netanyahu from being involved in the appointment of judges and senior legal officials and also bars him from involvement in legislation that might affect the process or outcome of his trial — like those being advanced by the government over the past year.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.