As part of the recent plans of the Israeli government to reform the legal system, also the role of the State Attorney Genral is being questioned. Who is the current woman holding this positin and what’s the significance of Israel’s offical government lawyer? Understanding the legal system of a country is a complex matter that requires an in-depth knowledge of its components and key players. Among the essential roles in this system, the State’s attorneys and lawyers hold a significant position. It is very important to understand that in order to be a lawyer in Israel one needs to complete law school, undergo an offical internship and pass the Bar Exam. Lawyers may work privetly, but many represent government offices, or work as public prosecuters.
In this article, we will explore the Israeli Legal System. The arrangement of the Legal Department here is structured by the Attorney General and the Legal Counsel of the government offices and other professionals. The attorney general is the head of the Israeli legal system and it’s the person who is also in charge of the public prosecution of the state. In addition to that, this person is also the administrator of the state prosecution and is the manager of the legal department.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ISRAEL
In 1997, while Meir Shamgar was the President of the Supreme Court of Israel, a study was initiated to explore the possibility of introducing legislation concerning the Attorney General. During this study, it was recommended that the official title for this position should be changed to “Chief Legal Adviser”, as it could be more intuitive reflecting the responsibility for ensuring the rule of the law across all parts of the government, and not only serving as an adviser.
The Attorney General will be appointed by the government according to the recommendations of the public commission, that include five members: a retired judge of the supreme court, a former justice minister or attorney general, a Knesset member who will be chosen by the Constitutional Affairs committee of the Knesset, an attorney who will be chosen by the national council of the Israel Bar Association, and a legal expert in the subjects of civil and criminal law who will be chosen by the heads of the university law schools in Israel.
After that the commission makes a list of nominees then the Minister of Justice recommends to the government and they appoint one person. The Attorney General is a person who has a high level of professionalism and political neutrality.
It is important to point out that the Attorney General has not been subject to a Basic Law, the traditional rules and customs associated with it were set out by a committee in 1962 and it was led by Shimon Agranat.
GALI BAHARAV-MIARA – Israel’s Attoreny General
Nowadays, the Attorney General of Israel is Gali Baharav-Miara. She is in the office from February 7th, 2022 and will be there for 6 years (until February 2028). It is very important to mention that she is the first woman in the office and she had the support of the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Before she was the Attorney General, she was an Attorney in the law office called Tadmor-Levy & Co., and later she worked in the Justice Ministry.
Gali Baharav-Miara job as the Attorney General of Israel is to protect the rule of law. In that way she advises the government in legal matters and represents the state authorities in court. Furthermore, she is the head of the prosecution, the guardian of the public interest and the Rule of Law. Also she is the legal counsel of government offices is the Legal Department whose job is to give legal advice to the Prime Minister’s office. We must emphasize that, as Itzhak Zamir wrote, “the true client of the Attorney General is the public.” So this person should act in a way that will be better to the population.
THE LEGAL COUNSEL OF GOVERNMENT OFFICES
As well as the Attorney General the Legal Counsels to governemnt offices are lawyers who give ongoing legal advice for the State departments. Goverment agencies each have their own Legal Counsel. This person will advise the Minister and the ministry clercks on how to legally implement their policy. Also he or she has the job of protecting the public interest.
This person works with “matters relating to public and civil law, public-administrative law and commercial-business law, international cooperation, and international treaties.” In this context, we can understand that the Attorney General is also a Legal Counsel. However, the Attorney General is in a hierarchically superior position than the Legal Counsel.
THE JUDICIAL REFORM
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, wants to reform the Israeli Judicial System. If approved by the Knesset, this reform could change the role of the Israeli Legal System. Levin’s plan is to allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers, and to not be bound by their advice. Furthermore, he would like to split the office of the Attorney General into two positions: one for the head of execution, and another for legal advice to the government.
In this field the Judicial Reform will give the government and ministers the authority to determine its legal position in any matter. Furthermore, they will be entitled to accept or reject the Attorney General’s advice. Nowadays, according to Supreme Court rulings, the Attorney General’s legal opinion is considered to reflect, from the point of view of the government, the current legal status, as long as the Supreme Court does not rule otherwise.
However, Avichai Mendelbilt, the last Attorney General, criticized the proposal made by Yariv Levin about The Judicial Reform. In the part about the Government Legal Advisors he said: “letting ministers appoint legal advisers – instead of the current system of election through public tender – would politicize the position and harm the integrity of Israel democracy’s ‘gatekeepers’”.
If the Judicial Reform is approved by the parlamentarias, many fear that it could harm Israeli democracy by creating a lot of legal problems if the advice of the Legal Counsel and Attorney General is not followed. This could also make the role of the Attorney General less relevant, potentially leading to problems with the public interest and democratic principles.
Critics of Judicial Reform argue that it constitutes a significant risk to the future of Israeli democracy and could ultimately destroy it.