Editorial |

A Blow to the War on Corruption in Israel

A march by Israeli settlers in support of illegal settlements in the West Bank, this month.
A march by Israeli settlers in support of illegal settlements in the West Bank, this month. Credit: Amir Levy

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara is in a conflict of interest between her position as attorney general and her affiliation with the Samaria Regional Council, which she represented in a petition against the state before her appointment.

The public learned of this when FoI agreement that she signed was obtained by Haaretz in its uncensored version.

It turns out that despite the conflict of interest, Baharav-Miara intends to represent the state in dealings with the council on several very sensitive issues that are supremely important to the council. These include the regularization of the Evyatar settlement outpost, the connection of outposts within the council’s territory to electricity and matters relating to the Homesh outpost,

If this intention is realized, it will be a severe dereliction of duty. The attorney general is the state’s gatekeeper on the issue of conflict of interest. Acting in conflict of interest is fertile ground for corruption, and in quite a few cases constitutes breach of trust.

The problem in conflict of interest situations is that they cause bias, usually unconscious, in judgment – the persons acting in conflict of interest are convinced that they are acting properly and solely out of relevant, appropriate considerations without prejudice. As the primary gatekeeper, the attorney general must set an example and be doubly careful, since bending the rules on conflicts of interest is liable to compromise the fight against corruption.

The state’s record on dealing with the illegal settlement outposts is disgraceful. It is often unclear whether the state is acting as the body whose job it is to uphold the rule of law, or as the partner of the lawbreakers. In light of this history, it is inconceivable that a person who only recently represented the other side should be entrusted with representing the state.

Baharav-Miara took office at a time when public trust in the Attorney General’s Office is at a nadir. In accepting the position, she undertook to work to restore that trust. Baharav-Miara began her tenure with a reputational and performance deficit: She has no expertise in the core areas under her purview and the chair of the search committee, former Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, did not support her appointment.

Her unjustified insistence on acting in a situation of conflict of interest is a recipe for further damage to public trust in the office. Baharav-Miara must recuse herself from issues related to the Samaria Regional Council for a year after taking office – as is stipulated in the agreement that she signed. During this period, one of her deputies shall represent and advise the state in regard to these issues in her stead.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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