The coming week of negotiations at the President’s residence will focus on the appointment of legal counselors to government ministries, as well as a new bill concerning the role of the Attorney General, Ynet reported on Sunday. The essence of it is that a new Attorney General will be appointed by every new government through a search committee it would appoint.
Like everything else related to the government’s proposed judicial reform, the AG’s role is currently the third rail of Israeli politics, even though it was the former Justice Minister Gideon Saar who promoted tirelessly the idea of splitting the AG’s function into two separate roles: legal counsel to the cabinet would go to one appointee, and supervision of the judicial system to another.
Now, the chance that opposition negotiators would agree to pass such a bill is low––even with Gideon Saar serving on the opposition team. But if any understanding at all, even a conditional one, is reached, Justice Minister Yariv Levin could assign to the legislative department of the office of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara the task of preparing and submitting the new Attorney General’s bill.
And that, folks, would be a very clever move.
Since the establishment of the new Netanyahu government, Baharav-Miara functioned as an agent of disruption: she refused to defend the appointment of Aryeh Deri as Minister, attacked fiercely and on numerous occasions all the components of the Justice minister’s judicial reform, clashed directly with the Prime Minister and even conspired to declare him incapacitated, and prohibited him from engaging in the judicial reform his own government was devising.
The reasonable question is: why not just fire the insubordinate AG? And the answer is, firing the AG is not so simple. According to Government Resolution 2274, adopted by PM Ehud Barak’s government based on the recommendations of the Meir Shamgar Committee that had been established by the Netanyahu government, there are four acceptable reasons to fire an attorney general:
- If there are substantial and prolonged disagreements between the government and the AG, which create a situation that prevents effective cooperation
- If the AG committed an act that is not appropriate for his or her position
- If the AG is no longer qualified to perform his or her duties
- If a criminal investigation is underway against the AG
But even though the first reason amply describes the current terrible working relationship between the government and the AG, the Justice Minister can’t just fire her – he must submit a complaint to the same committee that chose her. And even though the committee chairman, Retired Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, vehemently objected to Baharav-Miara’s appointment in the first place, suggesting she lacked the necessary qualifications (she hadn’t seen the inside of a criminal court as an attorney), the committee majority is affiliated with the opposition. And even if the committee accepts the justice minister’s plea to dismiss, Baharav-Miara would surely take it to the High Court of Justice which would handily dismiss her dismissal.
But forcing her office to draft a bill arranging the appointment of the next AG, no matter what they write in it, would furnish the government with a draft, which they can then take wherever they wish with poignant and strategic amendments, and then let Baharav-Miara yell until she is blue in the face.
While they’re at it, the AG’s staff are also expected to be assigned the drafting of a bill arranging the roles of the legal counselors to individual government ministries, same clever tactic.
The great thing about this approach is that you can’t use it to bring the masses out to demonstrate because on its face it is the AG’s office that’s writing this part of the judicial reform. Clever, I tell you, clever.