National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir appealed to the High Court of Justice on Monday to enable him to use private legal representation in an appeal against his proposed Police Law amendment, after Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara denied a similar request earlier on Monday.
The proposed amendment to the Police Law, which already passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum, makes the police commissioner subordinate to the national security minister but does not include a balancing clause that makes the commissioner subordinate first and foremost to the law. A number of organizations filed appeals to the High Court arguing that the law was unconstitutional, as it meant a politicization of the police.
"As is known, the attorney-general's roles are to assist the government in advancing its agenda and represent it within the limits of the law, and we are making every effort to do this to the best of our abilities. When disagreements arise, dialogue is held with the ministers in order to solve the disagreement while attempting to arrive at an acceptable position."Gali Baharav-Miara
The law is currently being prepared for its second and third reading on the Knesset floor in a special ad-hoc committee that was formed specifically for this purpose.
Ben-Gvir's appeal is the continuation of a high-profile spat between the two that began on Thursday evening after the attorney-general decided to freeze Ben-Gvir and Israel Police commissioner Koby Shabtai's decision to remove Tel Aviv district police commander Ami Eshed from his position.
"This letter [by the attorney-general to freeze Eshed's removal] reached [Ben-Gvir] via the media while he was sitting with the commissioner, Insp.-Gen. Koby Shabtai, and discussing a round of appointments in the police. Even more severe, prior to her decision, [the attorney-general] did not see the need to speak with [Ben-Gvir], and all the more so to meet with him, about the details of the occurrence," the national security minister wrote.
"This conduct is unconstitutional, unreasonable, disproportional and unfair. It is not worthy of [the attorney-general] to make such an extreme and severe decision without speaking to [the minister]," he added, demanding therefore that she should not represent him in the case against the Police Law.
A-G calls Ben-Gvir to meet with her
Labor MK Gilad Kariv wrote on Twitter in response to the appeal, "A failing and dangerous minister, who instead of dealing with the internal security of the citizens of Israel, is dealing with campaigns and provocations."
Ben-Gvir claimed already on Sunday that Baharav-Miarav's conduct led him to lose trust in her willingness to represent him.
"Unfortunately, this is not the first time you made decisions in matters regarding me and my office without [first] speaking to me," he wrote her. "This is what you did in the Police Law (you published your opposition to the law proposal without speaking to us first), and that is how you acted on many other 'Otzma Yehudit' laws, and on issues connected to decision-making in the national security ministry," Ben-Gvir wrote in the letter.
"Under these circumstances, I do not trust you to represent me loyally in the different appeals," he added, and therefore from a standpoint of "the law, integrity, and justice," the minister wished to represent himself or employ private representation in any appeals on the matter.
Thus, "I will not need to receive representation from an attorney general whose positions are opposed to mine, categorically, always, and always without speaking to me," he wrote.
The attorney-general responded on Monday morning that it was not possible to examine his request for self-representation against all petitions filed against him or his office, since his request was too general and did not address a specific instance in which he wants to represent himself.
"As is known, the attorney general's roles are to assist the government in advancing its agenda and represent it within the limits of the law, and we are making every effort to do this to the best of our abilities. When disagreements arise, dialogue is held with the ministers in order to solve the disagreement while attempting to arrive at an acceptable position," Baharav-Miara wrote.
"In addition, the attorney-general is the legally authorized interpreter of the law for the government, and its opinion is binding and reflects the existing law, unless the court decides otherwise. Separate representation is allowed in unusual cases, and is examined individually according to the specific circumstances and the reasons for the request," she wrote, adding that since Ben-Gvir's request did not specify a specific court proceeding, she could not address it.
Baharav-Miara claimed that she had written to Ben-Gvir on March 7 requesting a meeting but received no answer, and reiterated her call for him to meet with her in order for her to file her response to the petitions against the Police Law, and against his conduct at recent protest events.
In response, Ben-Gvir said: "I don't trust you, your considerations and your decisions, and it's time for me to stop hearing about letters you send me through the media."
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid said in response to Ben-Gvir, "If the TikTok and pita minister would fight terrorists and criminals as much as he fights the attorney-general, our situation would be better."