Attorney General Gali Bahrav Mayara told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he could not take part in his government’s efforts to radically reform the legal and judicial system because he has a conflict of interest due to his ongoing corruption trial.
In a file submitted to the High Court of Justice hours later, Netanyahu said he viewed Baharav Mayara’s position on the matter as “unacceptable”. He also asked two weeks for a full response to her letter.
The Attorney General’s statement sparked a sharp reaction from the heads of all party leaders in the coalition, who said in a joint statement that it flew in the face of the government’s “clear mandate” in the elections.
This was followed by Bahrav Mayara’s warning Submit a petition The Movement for Quality Government in Israel submitted him to the High Court of Justice last month to demand that the attorney general draw up an updated conflict-of-interest arrangement for Netanyahu after he took office as prime minister back in January.
Also Thursday, the Haaretz daily reported that the threat level for Baharav Mayara had been raised to the highest possible level, with the security services citing “genuine concern” that she might be harmed. The report stated that security details about the public prosecutor will be expanded.
In her letter, which was made public on Thursday, Bahrav Mayara wrote to Netanyahu: “In your role as prime minister, you must refrain from initiatives related to the legal system within the framework known as ‘legal reform.
And she continued, “This is due to the reasonable suspicion that there is a conflict of interest between the cases related to the legal procedures against you, and the set of legislative initiatives and their substantive components” that the government is advancing in the legal reform package.
“This includes any direct or indirect action or instruction through others, including the involvement of officials serving in your office as political appointees,” the attorney general added.
The government’s proposed legal reform includes legislation that would give the government an automatic majority in the committee that selects judges for every court in the country, including the Supreme Court.
If Netanyahu is found guilty of the corruption charges against him in the trial currently underway in the Jerusalem District Court, he will be able to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, during whose tenure his government will likely make the appointments.
said the prime minister In an interview with CNN on Tuesday That he was willing to “hear counter offers” to his government’s sweeping legal reform package, implying that he is involved in how reforms are formulated and pushed through.
The heads of the coalition parties denounced the attorney general’s letter, saying in a joint statement that her position “completely contradicts the clear mandate we received from Israeli citizens in the elections,” and that they “totally rejected” her position.
There is no relationship between legal reform [Justice Minister] Yariv Levin whose goal is to restore democracy to Israel, and issues a prime minister,” they continued, although Levin The two tied During a speech he gave in the Knesset last month.
Those who have a conflict of interest are in fact legal advisors. On the one hand, they are fighting reforms publicly and in the Knesset, which will affect their standing, and on the other hand, they are exploiting their positions in order to thwart them.
A Likud spokesperson said the statement was issued on behalf of Netanyahu, along with Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf, Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich, Otzma leader Yehudit Itamar Ben Gvir, and Noam leader Avi Maoz.
The Movement for Quality Government welcomed Netanyahu’s attorney general’s warning, saying the prime minister must “immediately remove his hands from the destruction of Israel’s legal and democratic system.”
Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Justice Minister Levin harshly criticized Baharav Mayara’s speech, accusing her of a conflict of interest.
He indicated that some of the proposed reforms will affect the position of the Attorney General and legal advisors to the government in general.
Conflict of interest seems very strange. An elected official is prohibited from talking about legal advice reforms, but the attorney general and his staff are allowed to block reforms that directly affect their powers,” Levine said.
In January, Bahrav-Mayara submitted an opinion to the High Court stating that a conflict-of-interest agreement that her predecessor, Avichai Mandelblit, established in 2020 for Netanyahu is still valid.
Under this arrangement, Netanyahu cannot participate in any matters affecting witnesses or other defendants at his trial, or in legislation that would affect legal proceedings against him.
Nor can he intervene in any issues related to the status of several senior police and prosecution officials, in several areas under the responsibility of the Ministry of Communications, or in the Judicial Selection Committee.