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Israel’s attorney general says Netanyahu is not in contempt of court

While the prime minister violated the law, the conditions for holding him in contempt of court were not met, says Gali Baharav-Miara.

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, Dec. 19, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, Dec. 19, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not in contempt of court when he allegedly violated a conflict of interest arrangement, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said on Monday.

Baharav-Miara said that while she believes the prime minister violated the law, the conditions for holding him in contempt of court had not been met.

“From a legal standpoint, a contempt claim must fulfill certain conditions that were not met in the current situation,” wrote Baharav-Miara. “The position of the attorney general does not change the prime minister’s obligation to abide by the law and avoid a conflict of interest,” she added.

The Jerusalem-based Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a petition with the Supreme Court last week demanding that it punish Netanyahu with prison time or fines for a March 23 televised address in which he said he would no longer stand on the sidelines of judicial reform under a “gag order” imposed upon him by the attorney general.

A 2020 conflict of interest agreement prevents Netanyahu from making senior judicial appointments that could influence the outcome of his ongoing criminal trial.

Netanyahu, responding to the petition on Sunday, told the court through his lawyers that he must be involved in the issue of judicial reform as the matter has risen to the level of a national crisis.

“Every sane person understands that in a national crisis that has internal and external consequences for the State of Israel, the prime minister is obligated to act in the interest of the people to try to bring about as broad a national consensus as possible to prevent violence and to ensure law and order and the day-to-day functioning of the state, its security and economic stability, and to maintain the state’s foreign relations,” Netanyahu said.

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