AG pans police minister’s ‘unfounded and false claims’ against law enforcement

Sniping at Amir Ohana, Avichai Mandelblit says letter accusing him of ignoring threats against Netanyahu was ‘distributed to media’ while his office was focused on coronavirus

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (L) and then-justice minister Amir Ohana attend an annual Justice Ministry conference in Airport City outside Tel Aviv on September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (L) and then Justice Minister Amir Ohana attend an annual Justice Ministry conference in Airport City outside Tel Aviv on September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday dismissed claims by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana that he wasn’t treating recent threats against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seriously.

Ohana, a Likud party ally of Netanyahu who previously clashed with Mandelblit repeatedly as justice minister, sent Mandelblit a letter on Friday accusing the attorney general of ignoring alleged threats on the premier’s life.

In his stinging response Monday, Mandelblit said: “I received your letter, which was distributed to media outlets last Friday afternoon, at a time when all of us are working tirelessly to deal with the urgent legal matters related to the state’s dealing with the coronavirus.”

He described Ohana’s letter as “riddled with unfounded and false claims against law enforcement.”

Mandelblit noted that criminal investigations were opened in three cases of threats against Netanyahu, and charges were filed in one of them.

He said all his office’s decisions were “made only on a professional and matter-of-fact basis, never from improper or personal considerations.

“Even in the face of slander and the spreading of conspiracy theories lacking any connection to reality, we won’t be deterred from performing our roles and will always act in accordance with the law.”

Then-justice minister Amir Ohana entertains Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud gathering. (Hadas Porush/Flash90)

Ohana last week claimed the level of incitement currently being directed at Netanyahu and his family dwarfs what was seen in the lead-up to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, while calling participants in mass protests against the premier anarchists. He accused the attorney general of failing to take such threats seriously.

Mandelblit responded that there were no specific, credible threats that in his estimation justified an investigation. He added that credible threats had previously been probed and stressed he didn’t “make light of the severity of threats of incitement.”

Several people were indeed charged recently over threats to the prime minister.

Ohana dismissed that response as “arrogant” and claimed that Mandelblit “seemed as one on a crusade against the prime minister.”

Also Monday, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn appeared to condemn Ohana and other lawmakers for their criticism of Mandelblit and other top legal officials.

“In recent days we’ve seen tongue-lashings of [deputy attorney general] Raz Nizri, [deputy state attorney] Liat Ben-Ari and Mandelblit. Let it be clear: These are excellent public servants who do their job faithfully,” Nissenkorn wrote on Twitter.

“It’s time for politicians to stop looking for someone else to blame every time the rule of law is inconvenient for someone.”

Nizri was berated during a Knesset committee meeting Sunday by opposition MK Eli Avidar of the Yisrael Beytenu party, for his backing of a coronavirus bill to regulate the cabinet’s emergency powers during the crisis which has been criticized by the opposition as giving the government outsized powers.

“You’re not a politician but you behave like a politician. You should be ashamed,” Avidar yelled at Nizri, who responded “I’ve never been spoken to this way” by a Knesset member.

Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari arrives at the District Court in Jerusalem, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on May 24, 2020.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in the corruption cases against Netanyahu, has previously come under criticism from allies of the premier. On Sunday, Ohana called on her to resign over allegations she had broken the law by splitting her home into two separate apartments without a permit.

“If this is indeed what happened, I think it’s a shame and disgrace that those who preach all day long for integrity, moral purity and the observance of the law, and invent cases that did not exist, are suddenly revealed in their corruption,” Ohana told Channel 20.

Ohana, who had previously quarreled with Ben-Ari and Mandelblit during his tenure as justice minister, said that if the allegations prove to be true then “she should not continue to serve” at the Justice Ministry.

In a statement issued via the ministry, Ben-Ari said that the property was not her family’s personal residence, but had been purchased by a joint purchase group, in which her husband was a member.

Netanyahu is on trial for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three criminal cases. He and his allies have hit back hard at the justice system, accusing the police and state prosecution of an “attempted coup.”

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