Fri, 24 Mar 2023

Israel's top legal official is warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay out of his cabinet's push to overhaul the judicial system, a plan that critics say could give the government 'unlimited power.'

Adding to tensions over the controversial proposal, Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said in a letter to Netanyahu made public Thursday that he "must avoid as part of your role as prime minister involvement in initiatives related to the legal system."

Netanyahu has been the subject of a corruption trial involving allegations of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes, all of which he denies.

The proposed overhaul to the country's judicial system, which has been in the works for years, would allow a simple majority of the country's 120-seat parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions deemed unconstitutional, meaning less oversight of policymaking by lawmakers.

Netanyahu's new far-right government has made changing the legal system a centerpiece of its legislative agenda. Supporters have charged ahead with steps to weaken the Supreme Court despite mounting public criticism that culminated in a Tel Aviv rally on Saturday that drew thousands.

Detractors say that the plan erodes Israel's system of checks and balances, and removes power from the Supreme Court, the ultimate protector of minority rights. If implemented, they say, the plan would undermine democracy, cultivate corruption and hurt the economy.

Netanyahu earlier this week denied that his involvement in the effort poses a conflict of interest, telling CNN "none of the reforms that we're talking about ... have anything to do with my trial."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday, telling him that he should foster a consensus for change and focus on supporting "core democratic principles."

Baharav-Miara's statement is expected to cause a further rift in the Israeli government as tensions rise between Netanyahu's far-right government and its opponents.

Some information from this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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