Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin suggested on Tuesday that he could in the future fire Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, but said that for now, his focus was on passing the government’s judicial reform proposal.
During an interview at a conference in Jerusalem, Levin made clear that “we are not dealing with her dismissal at the moment because we are focusing on [advancing the judicial] reform. We can’t do everything at once. In the current situation, had we taken such a step, the High Court would have intervened.”
“For these reasons,” continued Levin, “everything should be done in due time, so I hope she will perhaps get a grip and understand her job is not to impede me and act behind my back,” he added.
Baharav-Miara’s office later on Tuesday issued a statement saying that “the threat of dismissal will not deter the attorney general from fulfilling her duties.”
The attorney general has been heavily criticized for preventing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from being involved in the reform effort due to what she has deemed to be a conflict of interest due to his ongoing trial.
“The application of the limitations established by the High Court of Justice ruling leads to the general conclusion that you must refrain in your role as prime minister from taking part in initiatives touching on the legal system, in the framework of the process termed ‘legal reform,’” wrote Baharav-Miara in a recent letter to Netanyahu. She was apparently referring to the Supreme Court’s May 2020 decision that he could serve as prime minister despite the cases against him, with the provision that he avoid conflicts of interest pertaining to those cases in the performance of his duties.
At the time, Levin criticized the attorney general, saying, “It turns out that conflict of interest is a strange thing. An elected official is not allowed to talk about reform pertaining to legal advice, but the legal adviser and her team are allowed to act to thwart the reform that directly concerns their powers.”
In an address on Sunday, Netanyahu acknowledged that he wasn’t allowed to talk in-depth about the reforms.
“I’d love to speak to you about it at length. And to tell you why you shouldn’t worry. But for the moment, I’m prevented from doing that because I’ve been given a gag order,” he said.
Calling the gag order “patently ridiculous,” he said he would reserve his comments on the subject to three points:
1. Israel will remain a democracy with “majority rule and proper safeguards for civil liberties”;
2. “All democracies should respect the will of other free peoples, just as we respect their democratic decisions”—a reference to comments by certain U.S. administration officials, including President Joe Biden, who have weighed in on Israel’s judicial reform debate; and
The government’s plan includes changing the way judges are selected so that the Knesset members will have a majority say on the Judicial Selection Committee; passing an “override clause,” a law that would give legislators the power to reverse, or “override,” the Supreme Court when it strikes down laws; abolishing the legal justification of “reasonableness” by which the court can cancel Knesset decisions; and empowering ministers to hire and fire their own legal advisers.
The heads of the parties in Netanyahu’s governing coalition have also accused Baharav-Miara of holding discussions regarding the possibility of forcing the prime minister to take a leave of absence.