Likud denies report PM might sack attorney general after stormy cabinet meeting

According to Kan, Netanyahu told ministers he may fire Gali Baharav-Miara after she was denounced by cabinet members for alleged soft approach to anti-overhaul protests

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference at the University of Haifa, December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/ Flash90/ File)
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference at the University of Haifa, December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/ Flash90/ File)

The ruling Likud party on Sunday denied a report according to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers he could fire Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who was accused by ministers at a morning cabinet meeting of failing to take a firm enough stance against rowdy anti-government demonstrations.

According to a Kan news report, Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility of firing the attorney general while speaking to ministers outside the weekly cabinet meeting.

During that meeting, attended by Baharav-Miara and Justice Ministry officials, a succession of ministers repeatedly castigated the attorney general over authorities’ handling of lawbreaking during protests against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary. Several calls were made for her dismissal.

In a brief statement, Likud said the prime minister “ruled out firing the attorney general during [Sunday’s] cabinet meeting and asked ministers to refrain from discussing the issue.”

Correspondents for Channel 12, which also reported the premier’s alleged openness to firing the attorney general, pointed out that the government could prevent judicial review of a decision to oust Baharav-Miara if it passes its bill to cancel “reasonableness” as a yardstick for judging government policies.

The bill is set to pass a first reading in the Knesset on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 9, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Dozens of protesters gathered in support of the attorney general outside her home Sunday evening. Police requested that protesters remain 200 meters (656 feet) away from the residence.

Baharav-Miara and other senior officials in the Justice Ministry were summoned to Sunday’s cabinet meeting to discuss how law enforcement agencies have dealt with the massive wave of protests against the government’s efforts to shackle the judiciary, which have included blocking highways and other forms of civil disobedience.

Ministers have bristled at what they view as overly soft handling of demonstrators who harass and heckle them wherever they go, stage protests at their homes, and block key roads for hours at a time.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev said Baharav-Miara should be fired in light of what the Likud minister said was the attorney general’s unwillingness to prevent disturbances of the peace; National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the failure to indict more protesters was “disgraceful”; Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan told her that “selective enforcement is evil”; and Justice Minister Yariv Levin suggested sarcastically that she should simply announce that blocking Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway is legal.

Baharav-Miara responded by implicitly accusing the ministers of attempted political interference in how law enforcement agencies manage protests against the government.

Israelis block the Ayalon Highway during a protest against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul and in response to the removal of Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed in Tel Aviv, July 5, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid denounced the cabinet’s attack on the attorney general as “a violent hazing” and an example of the government’s attempt to “forcibly take out our democracy.”

Fellow opposition party chief Benny Gantz termed the meeting “the culmination of a fear-mongering campaign against law enforcement officials.”

“The Netanyahu and Ben Gvir horror show raises the concern that the government is not seeking equal enforcement, but rather bullying enforcement” against the anti-overhaul protesters, said Gantz.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli compared the attack on Baharav-Miara to behavior in autocratic regimes such as Russia.

“The planned attack by the government against the attorney general should shake our very core. The government of Israel summoned the attorney general to a hearing in which she was required to answer questions about how many protesters were arrested and taken for questioning. This isn’t happening in Putin’s Russia, it’s here in Netanyahu’s Israel,” said Michaeli.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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