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AG: Netanyahu barred from dealing with judicial overhaul due to corruption trial

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Netanyahu barred from dealing with judicial overhaul

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he could not be involved in his government’s efforts to radically overhaul the legal and judicial system because he has a conflict of interest due to his trial. for ongoing corruption.

The statement prompted a strong reaction from Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who accused herself of having a conflict of interest in opposing the reforms.

His warning follows a motion filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel with the High Court of Justice last month demanding that the attorney general draft an updated conflict of interest agreement for Netanyahu after he resumed his duties as Prime Minister in January.

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“In your role as prime minister, you must refrain from initiatives involving the judiciary within the framework known as ‘legal reform,'” Baharav-Miara wrote in a letter released Thursday.

“This is due to the reasonable suspicion of a conflict of interest between matters relating to the prosecution of you, and the range of legislative initiatives and their substantive elements” that the government is advancing in its legal reform package. , she continued.

“This includes any direct or indirect action or instruction by others, including the involvement of officials serving in your office as political appointees,” the attorney general added.

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Among the government’s proposed legal overhaul is legislation that would give the government an automatic majority on the committee that selects judges for every court in the country, including the Supreme Court.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman MK Simcha Rothman leads a committee hearing on his sweeping legal reform agenda alongside legal adviser to committee lawyer Gur Bligh, February 1, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

If Netanyahu is found guilty of the corruption charges against him in the trial now taking place in the Jerusalem District Court, he could appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court, to which his government will likely make appointments during his term. mandate.

The prime minister said in a CNN interview on Tuesday that he was ready to ‘hear counter-offers’ to his government’s proposed sweeping package of legal reforms, implying he is involved in how the reforms are carried out. formulated and advanced.

The Quality Government Movement welcomed the attorney general’s warning to Netanyahu, saying the prime minister should “remove his hands immediately from destroying Israel’s legal and democratic system.”

Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Levin, the justice minister, strongly criticized Baharav-Miara’s letter and accused her of having a conflict of interest herself .

He noted that some of the proposed reforms will affect the position of the attorney general and government legal advisers more generally.

“It seems that a conflict of interest is a very strange thing. For an elected official, it is forbidden to talk about legal advice reforms, but the attorney general and his staff are authorized to block reforms that directly affect their powers,” Levin said.

In January, Baharav-Miara filed an opinion with the High Court stating that a conflict of interest agreement drafted by his predecessor Avichai Mandelblit in 2020 for Netanyahu was still in effect.

Under the arrangement, Netanyahu cannot become involved in any matters that affect witnesses or other defendants in his trial, or in legislation that would impact the legal proceedings against him.

He also cannot intervene on 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.

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