Attorney general clashes with Likud minister for ‘spreading pernicious lies’

Quarrel surrounds report woman was questioned by police for making critical comment to Mandelblit on street; the AG insists he had no involvement in her detainment

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 16th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 24, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 16th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 24, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit once again found himself clashing with a Likud minister Monday after the latter attacked him during a Knesset speech, alleging that he’d had a woman detained and questioned for making a critical comment toward him.

Mandelblit responded that the claim he was involved in her detention was a lie and part of a deliberate campaign to blacken his name.

The confrontation surrounded a Channel 13 report from last week, according to which a neighbor of Mandelblit’s was detained and questioned earlier this year after she snapped “shame” at him while passing him on the street.

The woman, whose husband goes to the same synagogue as Mandelblit, told Channel 13 the incident occurred on a Saturday some eight months ago. She said a few hours later police came to her and demanded she accompany them to the station on suspicion of harassing a public servant. She protested that she did not want to do so on Shabbat, but they told her they would arrest her if she did not come willingly.

Police sources told the network the attorney general’s security detail had filed the complaint, noting that at the time there were several threats against Mandelblit.

The Justice Ministry issued a statement in response to the report that Mandelblit was not involved in any decision on the matter and filed no complaint.

On Monday David Amsalem, Likud minister in charge of liaising with Knesset, lambasted Mandelblit over the report during a Knesset speech.

“I’m without a security guard, but he? I’ve read his wife has one, maybe his children, maybe his brother,” Amsalem said. “It magnifies a sense that the guy is in some huge danger.

Communications Minister David Amsalem, speaks during a ceremony at the Communications Ministry in Jerusalem, July 10, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“On a Saturday you get a woman arrested? A mother of children? For what? People are breaking the law, thousands of them, health-wise, law-wise, but nothing, that’s all allowed,” Amsalem said, in apparent reference to the ongoing mass protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“But to make a comment to you on the street? Suddenly freedom of expression disappears.”

The Attorney General’s Office repeated in a statement that he “did not file a complaint, did not give any testimony and was not involved in any decision on the matter. It is an utter lie.”

It said that “it is unfortunate that once again Minister Amsalem is using the Knesset podium to spread pernicious claims and blatant lies against the attorney general,” denying that Mandelblit’s family members have a security detail.

“The attorney general — and only the attorney general — has security in the face of threats against him, and all in accordance with the decisions of the relevant bodies in the police.”

The statement said that “it is obvious to all that the timing of the campaign of falsehoods currently being waged against the attorney general… is not a coincidence.

“The attorney general does not involve himself in police decisions that pertain to him personally. Any attempt to present things otherwise or hint otherwise…is an utter lie.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends an event at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem, on February 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Mandelblit has routinely come under fire in recent months from supporters of the prime minister over the filing of criminal indictments against the premier, which Netanyahu has decried as an “attempted coup” orchestrated by the media, the opposition, the police and the state prosecution hierarchy, led by Mandelblit.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court. He denies any wrongdoing. It is expected to move into high gear in January.

The prime minister’s defenders have harshly criticized Mandelblit and other members of the law enforcement community whom they accuse, without evidence, of attempting to unseat Netanyahu for political reasons.

In May, Mandelblit, who indicted Netanyahu, filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats and other harassing messages. Police have previously investigated alleged harassment of the attorney general, and in 2018 his father’s grave was defaced.

Mandelblit has repeatedly clashed with Likud and its leaders, particularly current public security minister and former justice minister Amir Ohana, a chief ally of Netanyahu.

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