Netanyahu advised not to make changes to legal system while facing charges

Israel's attorney general cites fears of a conflict of interest in the prime minister's legal involvement

A woman during a demonstration in Tel Aviv last month against proposed judicial reforms by Israel's new right-wing government. Reuters
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Israel's attorney general has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that while he is facing corruption charges, to avoid a conflict of interest he must refrain from being involved in altering the country's legal system.

“The prime minister must avoid involvement in initiatives related to changes in the legal system," Gali Beharev-Miara wrote in a letter addressed to Mr Netanyahu. "This is due to the existence of a reasonable fear of a conflict of interest between his personal matters relating to the trial in which he is accused, and essential components of the initiatives.”

Ms Beharev-Miara also said Mr Netanyahu should not be “directly or indirectly” contributing to making changes to the legal system.

The contents of the correspondence were published by the Israeli Ministry of Justice.

Mr Netanyahu returned to the premiership in December leading what is being described as the most right-wing government in Israel's history.

Since assuming power, Mr Netanyahu's government has been trying to bring in legislation that would allow the Knesset, or parliament, to overrule the Supreme Court's decisions by a slim majority in the 120-seat parliament.

Mr Netanyahu's government describes these changes as reforms.

Last month, more than 100,000 Israelis took to the streets to protest against the government's legal manoeuvres.

“They want to turn us into a dictatorship, they want to destroy democracy,” head of Israel's Bar Association Avi Chimi said at the time.

“They want to destroy judicial authority. There is no democratic country without a judicial authority.”

Mr Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes — charges he denies.

In an interview with CNN this week, Mr Netanyahu said: “None of the reforms that we’re talking about … have anything to do with my trial.”

Additionally, Ms Baharav-Miara was “uninvited” to Mr Netanyahu's first cabinet meeting, the Atlantic Council think tank reported this month.

Many of Mr Netanyahu's cabinet members “view her as a treacherous fifth column in their midst and are angling to end her contract”, the report said.

Updated: February 02, 2023, 11:40 AM