Israel AG warns PM his involvement in judicial overhaul ‘illegal’

Jerusalem, Mar 24 (EFE).- Israel’s attorney general on Friday warned prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his direct involvement in the controversial judicial reforms being pushed by his government would be “illegal” as it would amount to a conflict of interests and violate a deal he signed in order to govern despite an ongoing corruption trial.

Gali Baharav-Miara sent the signed letter just hours after Netanyahu gave a speech to the nation late Thursday in which he vowed to directly involve himself in each stage of the government’s highly contentious judicial overhaul, which has sparked the largest street protests in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu claimed that he was free to get involved after his coalition, which includes far-right and religious parties, managed to pass legislation protecting him from being declared unfit for office by the Supreme Court.

The onus for such a move would now be on parliament and is only be pursuable on physical health or psychological grounds and not due to the ongoing corruption trial the PM faces.

Attorney general said that Netanyahu’s direct implication in the judicial reforms, which would affect how judges are appointed and curtail the power of the Supreme Court, would amount to a conflict of interests and breach a 2020 deal prohibiting him doing just that in case it influenced his trial.

“As a prime minister accused of crimes, you must refrain from taking actions that give rise to a reasonable fear of the existence of a conflict of interest between your personal interests relating to the criminal proceedings and your role as prime minister,” she said in the letter.

Baharav-Miara added that the new legislation passed by the Knesset early Thursday did not annul his conflict of interest agreement.

In his speech Thursday, Netanyahu vowed to avert a rift over the judicial reforms, which have been met with three months of protest.

“We have one state and we must do everything to protect it from outside threats and from an irreparable rift inside.

“We can’t let any disagreement, however fierce, endanger our joint future,” Netanyahu said on a day that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets of Israel’s major cities for another round of protests against the ruling coalition’s bid to restrict the power of the Supreme Court and give lawmakers control over judicial selection.

Critics of the reforms say they will undermine the separation of powers and Israel’s democratic identity.EFE


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