Likud’s Barkat says Netanyahu intends to fire the attorney general; ex-PM denies it

Senior MK for opposition chief’s party says Gali Baharav-Miara should be replaced by someone ‘whose worldview aligns with the right’; Likud says opinion is Barkat’s alone

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Nir Barkat (R) at a campaign event in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Nir Barkat (R) at a campaign event in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A senior member of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said Sunday that he believes the former premier, who is on trial for alleged corruption, will fire the attorney general appointed by the outgoing government if he wins the upcoming November election.

MK Nir Barkat’s remarks — which echoed previous statements made in recent months by other party members — were denied hours later by the Likud party, which issued a statement saying Netanyahu has no plans to oust Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara.

Speaking Sunday in an interview with Radio 103FM, Barkat said: “I think Netanyahu will do it [replace the attorney general] because he will want someone whose worldview aligns with the right wing.”

He added that the party should select a new attorney general “who can help carry out Likud’s policies.”

Barkat, widely regarded as a potential future contender for the Likud leadership, said he supports reforming the attorney general’s position, splitting it into two: one official in charge of prosecution, and another serving as legal adviser to the government.

Conservative critics have for years been arguing that having the same official hold both roles at once creates an inherent conflict of interest when deciding whether to press charges against a member of the government.

“Our trust in the law enforcement system is low. The roles should be separate,” Barkat said. “While a prosecutor or judges can’t be replaced during their tenure, a legal adviser definitely can be replaced.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara at a ceremony held for outgoing Supreme Court judge George Karra, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on May 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After the remarks were condemned by political rivals, Likud issued a statement saying Barkat’s words “only represent himself and are contrary to the stance of Likud and former prime minister Netanyahu.

“There is no intention of firing the attorney general,” it said.

Barkat isn’t the first Likud lawmaker on the campaign trail to threaten to oust Baharav-Miara.

In July, when the attorney general was contemplating whether to approve the interim government’s appointment of a new IDF chief of staff, Likud MK Yoav Kisch said that if she gave Defense Minister Benny Gantz a green light, she would be removed from the post should Likud retake power after a government is formed.

“The direct ramification [of such a move] would be to her and her status,” Kisch said in a statement.

Knesset Committee Chairman Yoav Kisch leads a discussion on rules of ethics for Knesset Members, January 17, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Going a step further than Kisch, Likud MK Shlomo Karhi vowed at the time to replace Baharav-Miara, regardless of whether she okays the appointment of a new military chief.

“Just like all the appointments of the fraud government,” Karhi wrote on Twitter.

Likud didn’t officially disavow the remarks, although the Ynet news site at the time quoted unnamed sources close to Netanyahu as saying the comments “were not his opinion.”

Baharav-Miara ended up approving the nomination of a new military chief, and Herzi Halevi has since been selected by Gantz to replace Aviv Kohavi.

Netanyahu — who is on trial on corruption charges — and Likud have frequently railed at prosecutors, law enforcement, and the court system in recent years, claiming without evidence that the ex-premier was indicted on trumped-up charges in order to force him from office.

While still serving as prime minister in a transitional government last April, Netanyahu appointed a Likud loyalist as justice minister over the objections of then-attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, but later backed down before the High Court of Justice was slated to hold a hearing on the matter.

Likud MKs and their allies have vowed far-reaching reforms to Israel’s legal system if they return to power, such as allowing the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings and giving politicians more say in the judicial appointments process. Some have also proposed legislation that could grant Netanyahu immunity.

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