Israel’s new Attorney General, Gali Baharav-Miara, pledged to make restoring public trust in the law enforcement system her top priority during her initiation on Tuesday.
“The past several days have shown a worrying decline in the public’s trust” she said. “It’s essential to look inward and examine ourselves without fear of criticism and over making the changes necessary to improve our work,” she added
"The external influence and attacks on the judicial system cannot be ignored, but its not right to attribute the decline in public trust to the institution of the attorney general, only to those external forces.”
She takes office amid growing allegations of improper use of cellphone spyware that allegedly targeted a large number of public figures, including a key witness in the ongoing trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the director generals of several government ministries.
Baharav-Miara commented directly on the recent allegations of police misconduct in the use of the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. “Naturally one of the first issues that I will address on taking office relates to the claims regarding the activities of the Israel Police in its use of certain technological means. Dealing with this subject will be made in light of the principles that I have stood for.”
The new attorney general said that her worldview is based on the principle of the rule of law. “The executive branch and all of its components are required to act to carry out its policy within the limits of the law, and we [at the attorney general’s office] need to assist in doing so.”
Her office does not set government policy, which is the role of elected officials, she said, but it is to provide political leaders and government professional staff with the legal tools to carry out their policies, she declared.
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In his remarks at the ceremony, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar mentioned some of the challenges facing Baharav-Miara in her new position. The need to strengthen governance and the fight against organized crime has to be at the top of the agenda, he said, along with reducing the strain on the courts and finding ways to adjudicate minor offenses outside of court.
In comments on the importance of ensuring that the law enforcement system functions within the bounds of the law, Sa’ar said, “Protecting the rights and dignity of the citizen in investigations and legal proceedings is the duty of the prosecutorial and investigation authorities and this should be carried out with particular meticulousness. A branch that acts in this way and strives to act in this way at all times is a stronger branch, not a weaker one.” She was Justice Minister Sa’ar preferred candidate among the three recommended by a search committee. Her appointment was approved by the cabinet on Monday.
The new attorney general replaces Avichai Mendelblit, whose six-year term expired at the end of January. Baharav-Miara is the first woman in the position having worked for 30 years in the Tel Aviv central disctrict branch. She established and ran the prosecutor’s office’s administrtive division and after which was named head the civil division of the Tel Aviv central district prosecutor’s office in 2008. She went into private practice in 2016 and was affiliated with the law firm of David Tadmor and Co.