Israel’s Attorney General urges Supreme Court to strike down judicial reform

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Israel’s Attorney General urges Supreme Court to strike down judicial reform

Justice Minister Yariv Levin raged against the attorney general, accusing her of "working against" the government.

Supreme Court Justices arrive for a court hearing in Jerusalem
Supreme Court Justices arrive for a court hearing in Jerusalem

Israel’s attorney general called on the Supreme Court to strike down the judicial reform passed in July, which removes judicial oversight over government decisions. 

The “reasonableness law” is an amendment to the Basic Law on the use of the reasonableness clause, which up until now has given the Supreme Court power to overrule government decision and appointments of ministers.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said that the amendment passed in a 64-0 vote in July after the entire opposition walked out of Knesset in protest, “locks the gates of the court to every person and group who might be harmed should the government or one of its ministers act toward them in an extremely unreasonable manner.”

“The public is therefore being denied an important means for defending itself from arbitrary exercise of power by the government that is not for the public good,” Gali Baharav-Miara said.

Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear a petition against the judicial reform, after which it will make a decision on whether to strike it down or dismiss the petition.

The “reasonableness law” has been widely criticised by opposition lawmakers, the protests movement, and former attorney generals and Supreme Court judges, who all argue that it damages Israel’s democracy by removing crucial judicial oversight over the government.

The reasonableness clause was last used by the court in January when it ruled that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appointment of Shas party leader Arieh Dery as Interior and Health Minister was unreasonable in the “extreme” due to Dery’s criminal past.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits with Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, January 8, 2023. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool

Baharav-Miara has been at odds with Netanyahu’s government from the beginning of its term, with several ministers and lawmakers calling her incompetent and demanding she be fired.

Likud Minister David Amsalem called her the “most dangerous person in Israel” and a clear threat to democracy, while Jewish Power lawmaker Zvika Fogel called her an “existential threat to the Jewish people in the State of Israel.”

On Sunday, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has also been unprecedentedly critical of the attorney general, said it was very difficult and “almost impossible to work like this” following her position on the reasonableness law.

“This is not how the attorney general is supposed to act…. (But) firing her is very problematic, not simple, and at the moment it’s not on the agenda, but I don’t know what will be tomorrow. Every day a new record is broken,” Levin told Kan public broadcaster.

Levin also accused Baharav-Miara of “working against” the government. “The time has come for the attorney general to have integrity, and I think the public must strongly demand it,” he said.

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