Israel’s cabinet approved Monday the appointment of Gali Baharav-Miara as the government’s next attorney general, making her the first woman to ever hold the post.
Baharav-Miara will be taking over from Avichai Mendelblit, who ended his term of office at the end of January. State Prosecutor Amit Aisman has been serving as the acting attorney general since Mendelblit concluded his tenure.
Last week Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced they would recommend to the cabinet that Baharav-Miara be named to the post.
“It would be fitting to appoint a woman to this post for the first time in the country's history," Sa'ar wrote. "I will put forward attorney Baharav-Miara, not because she is a woman, but because she is the best, most seasoned and worthiest candidate, with the richest and most impressive professional and managerial background."
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Baharav-Miara is currently with the Tel Aviv law firm of Tadmor Levy & Co. Prior to joining the private sector, she worked for 30 years in the civil division of the State Prosecutor’s Office.
In 2008, she was appointed head of the civil division of the Tel Aviv District after she had established and ran the administrative department of the prosecutor’s office. She left the prosecutor’s office in 2016.
The selection process was shadowed by public allegations of unprofessionalism, with some claiming that the process had been manipulated to favor Sa’ar’s pick for the post.
Asher Grunis, the former Supreme Court president who chaired the search committee, opposed Baharav-Miara’s appointment. Grunis claimed that her experience was inappropriate for the post. He cast his support behind Raz Nizri, who was considered to be the leading candidate at the start of the vetting process.
Nizri failed to make the final list of recommended candidates after two search committee members – former Justice Minister Dan Meridor and Knesset Member Zvi Hauser – opposed his appointment. Following the snub, Nizri announced his departure from the Justice Ministry.
Baharav-Miara has also been criticized for a lack of experience in criminal law, which is an essential component of the attorney general’s work.
Former colleagues who spoke with Haaretz, described Baharav-Miara as an outstanding lawyer with strong managerial abilities. However, even some of her strongest supporters admitted that her lack of criminal-law experience could impede her ability to make certain decisions that she will almost certainly face in her new role – among them, decisions regarding corruption by public officials.
Many officials said that Baharav-Miara would be far more likely to succeed in her new role if Sa’ar implements his plan to split the attorney general’s job in two. If so, she would focus on representing the government on civil and constitutional matters, while the state prosecutor, Amit Aisman, would perform prosecutorial functions.
Baharav-Miara, 63, is married to Tzion Miara, a former top official in the security establishment. They have three adult children.
She grew up in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim and attended the town’s Shimon Ben-Ziv High School. After completing high school, Baharav-Miara served in army intelligence’s 8200 unit and later was a research officer in army intelligence. Following army service, she studied law at Tel Aviv University, graduating with distinction. She later received a master’s degree from the university as well.
While serving in the State Prosecutor’s Office, Baharav-Miara met Sa’ar, who was working there as a young intern. The two kept in touch over the years, and often exchanged opinions on legal issues.
Tel Aviv is the largest district of the State Prosecutor’s Office. It employs scores of administrative workers and about 100 attorneys, who represent the state in magistrate, district, economic, labor and family court.
Baharav-Miara rose quickly in the district office’s ranks. As a young prosecutor, she was already leading cases with significant public impact. One such case involved one of the first decisions made by Yitzhak Rabin’s government in 1992 to stop building small apartments in public housing. The apartments had been designed to house new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, but there was little demand. The dispute led to a dispute between the government and the contractors who had been awarded the contracts. Orit Sivan, a former deputy state prosecutor for civil affairs, said that Baharav-Miara successfully led the government’s case, negotiating a fair, rather than excessive, payout to the builders.
Baharav-Miara defended the state against many claims for compensation filed by workers at the Dimona nuclear facility, who claimed to have developed cancer following radiation exposure at the facility.
“She didn’t want to place the employees in the difficult position of having to go through full trials in court, but there was the complex question of whom to compensate, and whether they could prove a causal link between their illness and their job,” said Sivan,who worked alongside Baharav-Miara. “In addition, there was information that the prosecution did not want revealed publicly because it was sensitive from a security perspective. So, Gali took the initiative to form a committee that established a framework for allotting compensation without having to go to court and was chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin,” Sivan said.
“It's an example of a large, complicated civil case with wide-ranging consequences for the public and for national security, and Gali solved it in an impressive way,” Sivan added.
Over the years, Baharav-Miara dealt with many civil litigation suits with similarly important ramifications. As Tel Aviv district prosecutor, she was responsible for damage suits filed by Palestinians against the Israeli army.
Baharav-Miara helped draft legislation that exempts the IDF from paying compensation to Palestinians injured during wartime. Based on that law, the Supreme Court ruled in November that the State of Israel owed no compensation to Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose three daughters were killed by errant IDF tank fire on their Gaza home during Operation Cast Lead in 2009.