AG warns of increased effort to delegitimize him as decision on PM probes nears

Mandelblit vows to ‘march straight in the path of the law’ in graft cases involving Netanyahu, amid attempts by PM’s supporters and detractors to sway investigations

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Wednesday warned that attempts to discredit him and top prosecutors would increase as a decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption probes inches closer.

While indicating such a decision was near, Mandelblit would not say when it would be made or when investigators would wrap up their work.

“But I do know that the efforts to delegitimize the work of the State Attorney’s Office and my own as the head of the prosecution will only intensify” as a decision approaches, he said.

Speaking at an event in Jerusalem marking the 70th anniversary of the State Attorney’s Office, Mandelblit also rejected allegations of bias among prosecutors leveled by political allies of Netanyahu.

“Last week the claim was heard that ‘in certain respects’ the Justice Ministry is ‘Sodom’ and on another occasion it was claimed that the [State] Attorney’s Office allegedly has a political bias and even chases after the prime minister,” he said, referring in the former instance to remarks by coalition chairman David Amsalem, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 5, 2015. (Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)

Mandelblit said such comments were “unacceptable” and aimed at pressuring prosecutors from issuing an indictment. He likened them to “parallel efforts that request a decision to prosecute at any cost, even before the investigations are finished and regardless of their results.”

In light of such pressures, Mandelblit vowed “we will always march straight in the path of the law.”

Mandelblit’s handling of the investigations into Netanyahu has come under withering criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Supporters of the prime minister on the right claim they are an undemocratic effort to topple him, while critics on the left accuse the Mandelblit of slow-walking the investigations, noting he was appointed to his post by Netanyahu and previously served as his cabinet secretary.

Mandelblit has pushed back on the criticism and also decried attacks on the media and law enforcement amid denunciations of those institutions by the prime minister and his associates.

Also speaking at Wednesday’s event was President Reuven Rivlin, who implored prosecutors to “not be afraid, do not be intimidated, do not be scared of anyone.”

“Your duty on behalf of the public and for the public interest is not to allow background noises to interfere with your judgment and to jealously guard your ethical and professional standards,” said the president, who like Mandelblit has denounced attacks on the press and legal authorities.

President Reuven Rivlin shakes hands with former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein (2nd left) as current Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (L) looks on during a conference in Jerusalem marking the 70th anniversary of the State Attorney’s Office, on October 17, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Netanyahu is currently under investigation for corruption in three separate cases, and lawmakers close to him have launched attacks on the press and police, proposing legislation to limit their ability to report on or investigate public figures, respectively.

In two cases, 1000 and 2000, police have already recommended bribery indictments against the prime minister.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors in exchange for favors. Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu is also suspected of advancing regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in an investigation known as Case 4000. Police suspect that in exchange, he received positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site, in what they say may have constituted bribery.

The prime minister has been questioned 12 times by investigators in the cases, in which he has denied any wrongdoing.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.