Netanyahu set to meet with her on Sunday

New government fails to invite AG to first cabinet meeting, amid threats to fire her

Snub underlines strong tensions between the incoming government and Baharav-Miara, who opposes its plans to overhaul the judicial system

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

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference at the University of Haifa, December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference at the University of Haifa, December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara was not invited to the first cabinet meeting of the new government, a situation described as “unusual” by a source within the Justice Ministry.

The development underlines the ongoing tensions between the incoming government and the attorney general, who has voiced strong concerns regarding the new coalition’s intention to radically overhaul the legal and judicial system.

The first cabinet meeting of the new government was held Thursday night but neither the attorney general nor a representative from the Attorney General Office’s was present for the event.

A source in the Justice Ministry stated that such a situation was “unusual” since a representative from the Attorney General’s Office is generally present at cabinet meetings.

A spokesman for former justice minister Gideon Sa’ar said the failure to invite Baharav-Miara was “highly irregular” and noted that former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit had been at the first cabinet meeting of the last government. Mandelblit was also at the first meeting of the government that Netanyahu formed in 2015.

Ynet cited a source “close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” as saying that the failure to invite the Baharav-Miara was a “quite clear and sharp message from Netanyahu to the attorney general saying: You’re not welcome here.”

However, Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a statement to the press that Thursday evening’s cabinet meeting was ceremonial in nature without any policy decisions made, and therefore there was no need for the attorney general to be present.

Benjamin Netanyahu holds his first cabinet meeting since returning as prime minister, hours after his coalition was sworn in, at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on December 29, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Netanyahu and Baharav-Miara spoke later in the evening and are scheduled to meet on Sunday morning.

Earlier this month, Baharav-Miara strongly criticized the incoming government’s proposals to neuter the High Court’s powers of judicial review and turn ministerial legal advisers into political, rather than professional, appointments; as well as significantly expanding the powers of the national security minister — the far-right leader of the Otzma Yehudit party, Itamar Ben Gvir — over the police.

Members of the incoming government have also vowed to reform the attorney general’s position by splitting it into two, with one official in charge of the state prosecution, and another serving as legal adviser to the government.

Baharav-Miara’s criticism of the planned moves set off a firestorm of denunciations from members of what was then the incoming government.

Ben Gvir accused her of believing herself to be “the real prime minister,” while Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, who has since been appointed chairman of the powerful Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, accused her of hypocrisy and political favoritism for failing to act against what he said were the abuses of power of the previous government.

Numerous members of the incoming coalition parties were ill-disposed to Baharav-Miara, who was appointed in February by the previous government, even before this incident.

Some MKs including the Likud’s Yoav Kisch had already threatened to dismiss her once a new coalition was formed, for what they allege is her political opposition to the new government.

Netanyahu — who is on trial on corruption charges — and members of his party 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.

In remarks at the opening of Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu told ministers that the government will be without divisions.

“We are united in our goal,” he said.

He also laid out the government’s main priorities: “Stopping Iran, returning security and governance, dealing with the cost of living and dramatically expanding the circle of peace,” referring to Israel’s normalization deals with regional countries.

“The ceremony is over,” Netanyahu added. “Let’s get to work.”

Most Popular
read more: