Opposition leader vows to stay in politics in event of loss

Netanyahu says ‘no intention’ of removing attorney general if returned to power

Senior Likud members claimed former PM plans to fire Gali Baharav-Miara, installed by outgoing government, if party wins November elections

Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu attends Kikar HaShabbat conference at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu attends Kikar HaShabbat conference at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said he has no intention of firing Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara should he come back to power.

“No one is going to fire the attorney general. I have no intention of doing so,” Netanyahu said at a conference organized by the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Kikar HaShabbat.

His comments came a day after senior Likud member Nir Barkat said that he believed the former premier, who is on trial for alleged corruption, would fire Baharav-Miara, who was appointed by the outgoing government, if he won the upcoming November election.

“I think Netanyahu will do it [replace the attorney general] because he will want someone whose worldview aligns with the right wing,” Barkat told Radio 103FM on Sunday.

Barkat’s remarks — which echoed statements made in recent months by other party members — were denied hours later by the Likud party, which said they “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,” the statement said.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on May 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In his comments Monday, however, Netanyahu did say he believes the judicial system should be reformed.

“In the end the policy will be established in an orderly way, and not in an arbitrary manner. I will ask to establish a framework that will consider everything in a responsible and considered way,” Netanyahu added.

The former prime minister took the opportunity to chide Barkat and other Likud lawmakers, saying that he was the one who would make important decisions.

“We have an excellent team, but the team has a captain and in the end, policy is made in an organized way,” he said.

The Likud leader also vowed to remain in politics even if he fails to form a government after the upcoming elections. “I’m going to stay on as the leader of the [right-religious] bloc until we bring a right-wing government back to the State of Israel and as long as Israeli citizens desire it.”

Likud MK Nir Barkat speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Barkat, widely regarded as a potential future contender for the Likud leadership, 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.

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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