Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
MK Gideon Sa'ar, January 30, 2023.

Poor MK Gideon Sa’ar, Chairman of the New Hope Party which is now part of Benny Gantz’s National Union. He was forced to erase so many items from his agenda on his party’s website, to hide the fact that Yariv Levin’s “judicial coup d’état” and Gideon Sa’ar’s plan to reform the judicial system are one and the same. So, here comes another one.

I took a screenshot of the New Hope web page, just in case Gideon will take it down, because a group of Likud MKs has submitted a bill this week, calling to split the internally-conflicted role of the Attorney General. Here’s what New Hope said about this idea, as well as another idea whose time has come long ago, public hearings for judicial candidates for the Supreme Court:

I took a screenshot of the New Hope web page, just in case Gideon will take it down / Screenshot from New Hope’s website

Translation: “The Attorney General model in Israel is the only one of its kind in the world, and embodies an inherent conflict of interest: on the one hand, he assists the government ministers and regularly issues opinions on how they should behave; and on the other hand, he heads the general prosecution, so he is the one who decides on issues of investigation and prosecution of the political echelon.

“We will split the institution of the Attorney General, by transferring the powers of the head of the general prosecution to the state attorney.”

The bill was submitted by 11 Likud MKs: Eli Dallal, Amit Halevi, Dan Illouz, Boaz Bismuth, Tali Gottlieb, Nissim Vaturi, Shalom Danino, Kathrin Shitrit, Eliyahu Revivo, Tsega Melaku, and Etty Hava Atia. The explanatory notes they submitted together with their bill are practically identical to the Sa’ar website this morning (it will most likely be deleted soon enough):

“The Attorney General serves as the government’s lawyer, thereby assisting it legally to fulfill its policies and goals within the limits of the law. His position requires him to cooperate closely and daily with the government and its ministers, whom he advises and whom he represents in the courts.

“At the same time, in his role as the head of the general prosecution, the attorney general is required to make decisions at the stages of launching an investigation and filing indictments against ministers and heads of government, with whom he has a very close acquaintance and working relationship. This causes a conflict of interest and a situation in which the AG cannot make decisions objectively.”

Now, here’s what Ynet had to say about the new bill Thursday morning:

“Senior judicial officials on Wednesday night referred to the new bill submitted by a third of the Likud MKs, intended to split the role of the Attorney General and rob her of some of her powers. They said that ‘it was not for naught that this happened on the same day that the elimination of the reasonability clause went into effect. All of this is connected to the increasing attacks on Gali Baharav-Miara by Likud ministers and MKs. Now it will be easier to sack her.”

Of course.

Now, don’t go away yet. I told you at the beginning that MK Gideon Sa’ar is in the habit of deleting stuff from his political agenda as soon as the coalition picks it up and turns it into the basis for its judicial reform. Well, the quote above from MK Sa’ar’s current website is a very soft version of what Sa’ar originally had to say about the urgent need to split the role of the AG. He deleted that part, but you know, the Internet never forgets. So here is the original, which I translated back when it still existed on the New Hope website but was already disconnected from the front pages. You’ll love it.

Splitting the role of the Attorney General
Splitting the position of Attorney General and transferring prosecution powers to the State Attorney. The Attorney General model in Israel is the only one of its kind in the world. It gives a non-elected person extreme power. Through the AG’s instructions, the entire public system is in effect subordinate to him or her: government ministries, local municipalities, statutory authorities, government-owned companies, statutory corporations, etc. His or her position is binding to all state bodies regarding the interpretation of the law, and he or she constitutes a monopoly in everything related to the representation of the state’s positions before the courts.
Legal scholar and former politician Prof. Amnon Rubinstein said, in a 2009 interview: “I once said that the Attorney General in Israel is comparable to Louis XIV, because there is no limit to his authority, and he himself determines the limits of his authority. But then I remembered that Louis XIV had a council of nobles, with whom he would occasionally consult. The AG doesn’t even have that.”
Furthermore, the role of the Attorney General embodies an inherent conflict of interest: on the one hand, he or she is a key partner in the government’s work. He or she furnishes the ministers with legal opinions on a regular basis on how they should interpret the law, and how they must manage the affairs of their ministries and their policies. On the other hand, he or she also heads the general prosecution and hence decides on issues of investigation and prosecution of the very political echelon he or she counsels, including the prime minister, ministers, and members of the Knesset.
The institution of the Attorney General must be split by transferring the powers of the head of the general prosecution to the state attorney and leaving the powers of consultation and representation in the hands of a chief legal counsel. This step would strengthen the independence of the legal counsel and strengthen democracy.

Now, the Likud has already announced that they won’t help promote the bill that was submitted by 11 Likudniks because, you know, what would Ynet say, never mind Haaretz.

Update: MK Eli Dallal pulled his proposed bill following backlash within the Likud, stating, “In light of my intentions to not advance it in the current Knesset and a real and honest desire for talks, compromises and reaching agreements with my fellow opposition members, I decided to withdraw the law. I have every hope that we will know good and united days and that we will reach broad agreements regarding the required balance between the authorities.”

For my May 2, 2023 report on the deleted Sa’ar agenda go to: Opposition Party’s Judicial Reform Matches Levin/Rothman and then Some.

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