Otzma Yehudit MK: Lapid should be in prison

Netanyahu seeking to discuss legal reforms with Supreme Court chief Hayut – report

PM-designate also said to be aiming to sit down with AG Baharav-Miara, who has been critical of some of bloc’s legislative efforts; Deri said to deny he’s violating plea bargain

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Supreme Court president Esther Hayut at a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Supreme Court president Esther Hayut at a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut after his coalition is sworn in and ahead of far-reaching legal reforms the incoming government is seeking to pass, according to an unsourced television report Sunday.

Channel 13 news reported that a Netanyahu-Hayut meeting had not yet been scheduled, but the network said the Likud party leader has sought to meet with the chief justice “and listen to her position as head of the judiciary on the possible reforms of the judicial system.”

Additionally, Netanyahu is slated to set up a meeting with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who has pushed back against some of the incoming government’s slated reforms. She has been the subject of wide criticism from right-wing politicians, including threats to remove her from office.

According to the report, the Likud chief is expected to hold off for at least a few months on implementing any of the major legal reforms being demanded by his coalition partners. The TV network did not cite any sources for either report.

The parties in the expected incoming coalition have declared their intention of pushing a wide range of judicial reforms once in office, including a highly controversial bill that would give the Knesset the power to override the High Court of Justice, as well as legislation to give politicians more power in selecting judges.

Earlier this month, Hayut issued a public warning against legislation aimed at altering the role of the judiciary system.

Though she did not specifically mention the proposals, Hayut stressed that “our loyalty as judges is to the entire Israeli public, and to each and every one of the individuals that make it up.”

Supreme Court Chief of Justice Ester Hayut and Supreme court justices arrive for a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, October 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu has until Wednesday night to announce that he has succeeded in building a government coalition or to request a further four-day extension from President Isaac Herzog.

The members of Knesset in Netanyahu’s 64-seat bloc have been working to advance a swath of legislation aimed at paving the way for the next government by making the legal changes to policies and ministerial posts demanded by his allies.

One bill is meant to expand ministerial authority over police leadership and policy, sought by Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who is set to get a ministerial post with responsibility for the force. Another will change a Basic Law to enable a person serving a suspended sentence to become a minister without a determination of whether his crime carried moral turpitude, allowing convicted Shas leader Aryeh Deri to join the cabinet.

In comments reported by Channel 12 news on Sunday evening, Deri was said to tell confidants that he would do anything to be appointed a minister, denying that he has violated the terms of his plea deal — in which he resigned from the Knesset last year on tax offenses, avoiding a charge of “moral turpitude” that can be applied to public officials.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri leaves a hotel in Jerusalem after holding coalition talks with Religious Zionist chief Bezalel Smotrich and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It’s a crazy claim that I violated the plea deal,” Deri was reported as saying, adding that if he was barred from public office, prosecutors should have spoken up when he ran for Knesset in the November 1 national election. “Everyone in the state prosecutor’s office knows the truth,” he added, inviting anyone who believes otherwise to bring the issue back to court.

“I am determined to fulfill the will of Shas voters, which I did not hide during the election: to serve on their behalf as a senior representative in the government,” Deri reportedly continued. If there are legal challenges to his becoming a minister, he said, “I will certainly work in any situation and under any conditions to use legal means to fulfill the will of voters.”

Last week, Baharav-Miara said that the wide range of expected judicial reforms could render Israel “a democracy in name only.”

Likud MK Yoav Kisch on Sunday chided Baharav-Miara: “I would love for the attorney general to issue a clarification as to why she made a decision that she opposes it before there was even phrasing for [the bill],” he said during a committee hearing.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara attends a conference in Tel Aviv, July 5, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Several right-wing lawmakers have called for Netanyahu to fire Baharav-Miara, or to split the position of attorney general in two, with one role for a government legal adviser and a separate role for chief prosecutor.

Separately, Almog Cohen, a Knesset member with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, suggested in an interview Sunday that outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid should be thrown into prison.

“In a proper country he would be behind bars,” Cohen said of Lapid on the Knesset TV channel. The MK suggested that Lapid is guilty of “trying to convince an IDF officer to revolt.”

MK Almog Cohen (L) at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 22, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Cohen was likely referring to a recent claim by Netanyahu that Lapid had a conversation with an IDF general and reportedly told him that “the extreme right in every country always tries to seize power over the army — by instigating conflict between soldiers and their commanders.”

Netanyahu said Lapid’s reported conversation “is dangerous and hurts democracy,” and that it “crosses a red line.”

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