Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem and Communications Minister Shlomo Karai, both from Likud, on Thursday, asked the High Court of Justice to rule that Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara would not take part in a hearing of the petition against them. The petition was submitted last March by Mishael Vaknin, Chairman of the Board of the Israel Post Company after he was sacked by Amsalem and Karai.
Baharav-Mihara asked the court for additional time to prepare her response to the petition, but Amsalem and Karai told the court that it doesn’t need to hear the position of someone who is not a party to the dispute, which is why the AG should be deleted from the list of responders.
As Minister Karai put it: “In light of the fact that the AG does not represent Ministers Karai, Amsalem, and Smotrich, and in light of the fact that she is not ready to meet the timetable set by the honorable court––even though she informed the ministers more than two weeks ago that she had formulated her position against them––It seems desirable to let the ministers represent their position properly, without the background noise of someone who is not involved in the matter.”
And so began the most recent chapter in the saga of the Netanyahu coalition and former Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s parting gift, the Trojan horse Baharav-Miara.
Constitution Committee Chairman Mk Simcha Rothman put it succinctly in his Thursday tweet:
The Attorney General refuses to represent:
The government in the high court’s debate of the reasonability clause.
The prime minister at the high court’s debate of the incapacity provision.
The justice minister in the high court debate of the petition to compel him to assemble the committee to appoint judges.
The ministers of communications, regional cooperation, and finance in the high court hearing of the Israel Post petition.
Who does Gali Baharav represent?
Is she still the legal counsel to the government?
That last line has to do with the two contradictory roles the Attorney General has in Israel: she is both the head of the judicial system, including the prosecution and the courts, as well as the legal adviser to the government, which, yes, means that she is able to prosecute the very ministers she is legally defending.
Yes, dear reader, Israel’s Attorney General is the most powerful person in Western politics, and she wasn’t elected by anyone, in fact, she was appointed by the sworn enemy of the current government.
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.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Thursday sent the AG a very angry letter, attacking her for perpetually representing forces that are hostile to the government, while, in the case of the committee to appoint judges, she also won’t allow him to get his own representation.
I told you, Israel’s Attorney General is the most powerful person in Western politics.
Baharav-Miara’s response reads like something out of a comic book, just simplistic enough and self-congratulatory enough to appeal to the anarchist mob:
“Threats of layoffs heard in the media will not deter me and my people from continuing to fulfill our duties,” she announced, likely imagining herself to be that bear-chested woman rushing the barricades in Eugène Delacroix’s heroic painting, La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty Leading the People).
She continued: “The expectation that the legal counsel to the government would fail in its duty and refrain from reflecting the legal situation to the political echelon, mute its voice in the context of examining petitions in court, or shy away from serving as a gatekeeper – is an illegitimate expectation.”
Levin’s circle insisted that “at no point did the minister threaten to fire the AG.”
A lot of good that’s going to do him.