A-G hints she may let gov't appoint new IDF Chief of Staff

If approved, the appointment would be made despite objections from Likud.

 NEWLY APPOINTED Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara waves during a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem this week.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
NEWLY APPOINTED Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara waves during a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem this week.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara on Tuesday hinted to a conference of public sector legal advisers that she might approve Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s request to appoint a new IDF chief of staff during election season on the basis of national security considerations despite Likud Party objections.

Although Baharav-Miara made no formal commitment either way, her strong advocacy of the idea that “restraint does not mean silence” for a transitional government seemed to be laying out the possibility of approving the appointment.

In past speeches by other attorneys-general who were going to freeze appointments, they placed greater emphasis on the idea that transitional governments appointing persons during election season was problematic.

Though Baharav-Miara mentioned this issue as well, she then went out of her way to explain that there was no blanket prohibition on election season appointments, especially if there was a national security need.

Further, she said she would not be pressured by “alien [problematic] considerations,” a veiled push back against threats by Likud members to fire her if they regain control of the government after the November 1 election.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90) Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

At the same conference, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said, “We are not going into normal elections where the question is about who is in charge.” He warned that a government run by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would lead to “the total politicization of the legal system and transforming the selection of judges to just another section of coalition horse-trading.”

Sa’ar said the public swant reforms to the legal establishment to improve it, but not changes which would end its “independence, impartiality” and readiness to resist extortion and threats.

Threats to fire Israel's attorney-general

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday told Baharav-Miara that he fully backed her, following the latest threats to fire her from various Likud members on Sunday night.

The threats came in light of the possibility that Baharav-Miara was entertaining the possibility of approving Gantz’s request.

Likud MKs Yoav Kisch and Shlomo Karhi both attacked Baharav-Miara for not rejecting Gantz’s request outright.

Kisch said that Baharav-Miara would be fired by a new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu if she dares to approve Gantz’s request, which he said would show she was taking a clear political side.

Karhi said Likud would fire her no matter what she decided, as they would seek to fire all of the current government’s appointees, viewing the current government as illegitimate since it was not led by Netanyahu, whose Likud won a plurality of the most seats.

Lapid said he “was sure that the legal establishment would continue to act professionally, objectively and putting the interests of the state first, as it has done until now.”

Sa’ar on Sunday had already called Kisch’s threat “gangsterism.”

Defense Ministry legal adviser Itai Ofir on Sunday sent Baharav-Miara his legal opinion stating that Gantz can appoint a new IDF chief of staff even with elections on the horizon.

Ofir’s opinion gave a classified survey of the security challenges confronting the country, which he said would be exacerbated if selecting a new chief is delayed.

In late June, the attorney-general said she would need more details from the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser before deciding the issue.

On one hand, appointments during election season were discouraged, she said. On the other hand, appointments were not banned across-the-board and there could be exceptions that met a standard of the state having a necessity.

The three lead candidates are current IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Hersti Halevi, former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, and former IDF Northern commander Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick.

Halevi is reportedly the lead candidate, but some on the Right prefer Zamir, who was helped to move up the chain of command by Netanyahu when he was still prime minister, and who had worked for him as his personal military secretary.