Ben-Gvir attacks attorney-general for opposing police law

Ben-Gvir questions attorney-general's judgment following reports she'd oppose police bill which would give Ben-Gvir more control over Israel Police

 Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of a suspected terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of a suspected terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara’s position that she would oppose incoming national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s proposed legislation to increase his control over the police is “disappointing” and raises a “large question mark regarding her professional positions,” Ben-Gvir said.

Ben-Gvir submitted a bill on Thursday that would give the national security minister control over the Israel Police budget and certain policy aspects that are currently controlled by the police commissioner. Passing the legislation is a precondition for Otzma Yehudit’s entry into the government. The incoming coalition will therefore attempt to fast-track and pass it into law before Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government ends on December 28.

A number of media outlets reported that Baharav-Miara would oppose the legislation and refuse to defend it if an appeal reaches the High Court. The attorney-general’s spokesperson refused to say whether the reports were correct.

Ben-Gvir said in the statement Saturday night, “I find it difficult to understand how the attorney-general rushed to determine a position on a bill that was submitted only on Thursday.

“The same attorney-general who allowed [outgoing Public Security Minister] Omer Bar Lev to make political decisions in the Public Security Ministry, and enabled every aggressive and illegal move promoted by the government, such as the appointment of a chief of staff and the approval of diplomatic agreements during an election period, and more, managed to formulate a negative position within just one day against my bill, whose purpose is the empowerment of Israeli democracy and the police acting according to the will of the people. This is a very disappointing statement by the attorney-general, and brings her professional positions into question,” Ben-Gvir wrote.

"This is a very disappointing statement by the attorney-general, which calls her professional positions into question."

Incoming national security minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir
 NEWLY APPOINTED Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara waves during a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem this week.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) NEWLY APPOINTED Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara waves during a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem this week. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich supported Ben-Gvir’s claim, writing on Facebook that it was “the most justified in the world.” Smotrich argued that if the police are not properly regulated, they will serve as a “state within a state” and be a “dangerous democratic distortion.” There should not be “responsibility without authority,” and the national security minister should have authority over the police, Smotrich argued.

Barring earlier appointments

Ben-Gvir’s criticism came after Baharav-Miara last week rejected his petition to bar Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai from making senior appointments so close to Ben-Gvir taking office. The attorney-general wrote that the appointments were made after due process and that there was no reason for her to intervene.

One of these appointments was of a commander of the Judea and Samaria Border Police, which according to Otzma Yehudit’s agreement with the Likud will move from the Defense Ministry to the National Security Ministry. Baharav-Miara commented on the subject, saying it was a “sensitive appointment” and that there had been room to conduct a “deep legal examination,” but that the appointment was already a fact and she would not reverse it.

Another central piece of legislation the incoming coalition will attempt to pass this week is an amendment to the Basic Law: The Government to enable Shas chairman Arye Deri to serve as a minister.

Deri was sentenced in January to a 12-month suspended jail sentence for tax offenses as part of a plea bargain. The law says that if the Central Elections Committee chair, in this case High Court Justice Yitzhak Amit, rules that Deri’s actions involved moral turpitude, he cannot serve as a minister for seven years. Shas MK Yakov Asher therefore put forward a proposal last week to change the basic law so that it only applies to actual, and not suspended, jail sentences. Shas set the law as a precondition for its entry into the coalition and government.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced on Sunday that he would convene the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Monday to draft the government’s position on the law proposals mentioned above.

Sa’ar on Twitter accused the “Deri law” of being a “personal snatch of an amendment to a basic law,” whose “entire purpose” was to “avoid [again] a decision regarding moral turpitude of an incoming minister, and lowering the moral bar for service in government.”

The law was a “robbery in broad daylight,” Sa’ar added.