Likud minister says reasonableness clause preventing coalition from firing AG

Karhi indicates that once government passes measures barring High Court from reviewing appointments, coalition will be able to axe Baharav-Miara; Likud calls claim ‘baseless’

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi at the plenum hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on May 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi at the plenum hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on May 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said Wednesday that the government cannot fire Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara because her ouster would be overturned by the High Court of Justice using a legal tool that the coalition is in the process of annulling.

Karhi told Channel 12 that it is likely not currently possible to fire Baharav-Miara “because of the story with the reasonableness issue,” indicating that the coalition will try to remove the attorney general once it finishes its plan to scrap the judicial review clause next month.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice began deliberations this week on a bill to block justices from exercising judicial review over the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

Numerous coalition lawmakers have called for Baharav-Miara to be canned over her opposition to a large number of controversial proposals that the government has sought to advance.

Netanyahu has previously said he has no intention of firing her, and his Likud party issued a statement following Karhi’s “baseless” remarks, saying that they did not represent the views of the premier.

Karhi maintained in his Wednesday interview that if it were up to him, Baharav-Miara would be “sent home today.” He told Channel 12 that he told the attorney general on the day she took office that she “should not bring a lot of things with her because she would be going home very quickly.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara attends a cabinet meeting held at the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 21, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“What is required in the judicial system is for there not to be a gang responsible for the rule of law that can overthrow a government and depose a sitting prime minister,” he said, referring to the corruption cases that the Attorney General’s Office has brought against Netanyahu.

Karhi’s comments followed similarly combative ones from United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus, who called on Tuesday for Baharav-Miara’s dismissal over her opposition to the government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary.

“I would immediately dismiss an attorney general appointed by another government,” he said.

During Monday’s Constitution Committee hearing on the coalition’s reasonableness proposal, one of Baharav-Miara’s deputies warned that it would open a legal “black hole” and “seriously damage basic democratic values.”

Reasonableness has been the primary judicial check against appointments and was used earlier this year to remove Shas leader Aryeh Deri from twin cabinet postings — as minister of health and the interior — citing his recent tax offenses and past bribery conviction, and his commitment to quit the Knesset as part of a plea bargain.

Rather than merely tighten the conditions under which courts could evaluate the reasonableness of a government decision, the coalition proposal seeks to completely remove court oversight over a range of decisions made by potentially any elected official.

The court would still be able to use the reasonableness test against decisions made by non-elected officials and would be able to apply other judicial and statutory tests, where applicable.

The bill was prioritized by the coalition shortly after opposition lawmakers withdrew from judicial reform compromise talks following a stymied election of MKs to the Judicial Selection Committee earlier this month. Opposition lawmakers have warned that without the reasonableness protection, the government would be able to fire the attorney general and appoint personal cronies in her place.

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