Likud MK says he will withdraw controversial bill to split attorney general position

Eli Dallal says he’s pulling the legislation ‘out of sincere desire for compromise with opposition,’ though all 10 cosponsors would have to retract their names too

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

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)

Likud MK Eli Dallal said on Thursday that he will withdraw his controversial bill to split the position of the attorney general, saying he had never meant to advance it in the current Knesset.

Dallal would, however, need all 10 MKs who cosponsored the bill to agree to withdraw it before it can be retracted.

On Wednesday, Dallal’s bill, dealing with the highly sensitive topic of the attorney general’s powers, was advanced through a preliminary bureaucratic step in the Knesset, leading to it being published on the Knesset website.

Publication of the legislation generated outrage from the opposition and anti-government protest groups, in light of the passage of the contentious “reasonableness” law earlier this week, and the allegations of the opposition that the coalition’s goal of splitting the attorney general’s role is another effort to reduce oversight and checks on government activity.

The bill had actually been submitted by Dallal several months ago and it is the Knesset legal department, not MKs or the coalition, which controls the bureaucratic approval process for legislation before it can come for a vote in the plenum.

“In light of the fact that I did not intend to advance it in the current Knesset and out of a true and sincere desire for dialogue, compromise and agreement with my colleagues in the opposition, I decided to retract the law,” said Dallal on Twitter on Thursday.

MK Eli Dallal leads a joint meeting of the Special Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Special Committee for Combating Drug and Alcohol Abuse at the Knesset, April 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I very much hope that we will know good and united days and that we will come to broad agreement on everything connected to the required balance between the branches of government,” he adds.

When the bill was given bureaucratic approval on Wednesday, Dallal insisted on Twitter that he had had no control over the timing.

“There is no intention to advance it or any other law connected to the legal system,” wrote Dallal, adding that the bill, if passed into law, would only take effect in the next Knesset, meaning after new elections.

The Prime Minister’s Office and his Likud party also swiftly denied seeking to advance the law, saying it had not been coordinated with coalition party heads or the prime minister, although they did not rule out advancing the bill in the future.

“Bills such as these will not be advanced without the approval of coalition heads, and therefore it is not on the agenda,” Likud said in a statement.

Cabinet ministers and coalition MKs have repeatedly attacked Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara for opposing government policies and legislation, and called for her to be fired on several occasions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem during which several cabinet ministers castigate the attorney general and called for her dimissal, July 9, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The right-wing has sought to split the position of the attorney general for several years, arguing it combines several powerful roles, including that of the government’s chief lawyer, its legal adviser, and the head of the public prosecution, which should not be controlled by one individual.

The explanatory text of Dallal’s bill says that in light of these multiple roles, the attorney general faces a potential conflict of interest if required to investigate a cabinet minister, since she is familiar with them.

The bill would, therefore, transfer the authority to open a criminal investigation into, and indict, the prime minister and cabinet ministers from the attorney general to the state attorney.

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