Israeli attorney general says Netanyahu must avoid legal overhaul

Gali Baharav-Miara says the Israeli Cabinet’s planned judicial changes risk giving government unbridled power.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must stay out of his cabinet’s push to overhaul the judicial system, a plan that could give the government “unlimited power”, Israel’s attorney general has said, adding friction to a bitter dispute over the proposals.

In an official legal advisory to Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Gali Baharav-Miara said the planned changes would harm the country’s system of checks and balances, and risked giving the government unbridled power that would be “a sure recipe for harming human rights and clean governance”.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets across the country to protest against the plans to strengthen political control over appointments of judges, including the Supreme Court, while weakening that body’s ability to overturn legislation or rule against the government.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new right-wing coalition and its proposed judicial reforms.
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition and its proposed judicial reforms [File: Corinna Kern/Reuters]

Critics have said the proposed changes will politicise the judiciary and compromise its independence, foster corruption and harm Israel’s legal protection abroad and its economy.

In a separate statement earlier on Thursday, Baharav-Miara said Netanyahu was prohibited from involvement in the proposals, because of a conflict of interest posed by his continuing corruption trial, in which he has denied wrongdoing.

Netanyahu made no immediate comment. Levin accused the attorney general of trying to silence the prime minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals [File: Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via Reuters]

Coalition legislator Simcha Rothman said the judicial overhaul has nothing to do with the criminal case against Netanyahu and Baharav-Miara’s instruction would have no impact on its advancement.

Rothman, who heads the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, was briefing diplomats and journalists at the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs.

Now in his sixth term at the head of a hard-right coalition, Netanyahu has argued that the judiciary has overstepped its bounds in recent years.

The government has said the plan is critical to streamlining governance and correcting an imbalance of power between the country’s executive and judicial branches, which the government has said made the courts too powerful.

Critics have said the plan upends Israel’s system of checks and balances and strips minorities of the ultimate protector of their rights, the Supreme Court.

Source: News Agencies