The Yedioth Ahronot newspaper on Friday published a column by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, while the newspaper’s publisher, Arnon Mozes, is undergoing hearing proceedings overseen by Mandelblit himself ahead of his possible indictment for bribery in Case 2000.
The case involves accusations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed with Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. Mandelblit has said he intends to charge the premier with fraud and breach of trust in the case, pending a hearing for Netanyahu, in addition to charging Mozes.
Mozes is still the controlling shareholder in the Yedioth Ahronot.
In Friday’s column (Hebrew link), Mandelblit makes the case for defending the rule of law and the independence of the legal system, saying they are the foundation for democracy in Israel.
“The Supreme Court, which enjoys independence and international prestige, designed in its rulings the equality of all before the law and the protection of human rights in the country. Its thousands of judgements tell the story of Israeli democracy,” Mandelblit wrote.
Netanyahu has come under immense criticism recently from former members of the judiciary for his apparent attempts to curb the powers of the court for his personal benefit.
According to a television report on Wednesday night, Netanyahu and his intended new coalition partners have agreed that the incoming government will legislate a far-reaching constitutional change to rein in the oversight role of the Supreme Court, giving Knesset members the authority to re-legislate laws that the court has struck down, and preventing the court from intervening in administrative decisions.
In addition to its far-reaching constitutional implications, such a law is of immense potential personal significance for Netanyahu, who is facing prosecution in three corruption cases, and is widely expected to ask his fellow Knesset members to vote in favor of giving him immunity from prosecution, as is possible under existing Israeli law.
While currently the Supreme Court could overturn such a Knesset decision, the legislation mooted by the incoming government would deny the court the right to do so, allowing Netanyahu to escape prosecution.
Mandelblit’s column, titled “When Jabotinsky and Begin defended the rule of law,” was published in the newspaper’s weekend supplement, and was not written specifically for Yedioth, but was part of a book about early Zionist hero Zeev Jabotinsky that is being published by the Yedioth Ahronoth publishing house. It wasn’t clear when Mandelblit wrote the essay, which was described on the newspaper’s online site Ynet as a “special column by the legal adviser.”
The article was approved for publication by Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen, according to the Israeli business daily The Marker. It wasn’t immediately clear if Mandelblit himself had approved the decision or checked the column before it went to press.
“The article is part of a book that brings together works by leaders, including the president and prime minister, on the subject of Jabotinsky’s legacy. The book was initiated by the World Betar leadership and will be published in cooperation with Yedioth Ahronoth. For this reason, and at the request of the chairman of the Betar leadership, the article was published this morning in Yedioth Ahronoth as part of the cooperation in publishing the book,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement.