Coalition whip: ‘Disgraceful’ for ex-Supreme Court justice to criticize PM
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After retired justice says PM is acting like a crime boss

Coalition whip: ‘Disgraceful’ for ex-Supreme Court justice to criticize PM

David Amsalem accuses Eliyahu Matza and other judges of left-wing bias, says people losing trust in rule of law amid Netanyahu probes

Coalition chairman MK David Amsalem attends a Likud party event in Tel Aviv marking the Jewish new year on September 6, 2018. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Coalition chairman MK David Amsalem attends a Likud party event in Tel Aviv marking the Jewish new year on September 6, 2018. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Coalition whip David Amsalem on Sunday hit out at former Supreme Court justice Eliyahu Matza, saying his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was an “absolute disgrace.”

“They shouldn’t wonder why we think the Supreme Court staff represents the left,” Amsalem told Army Radio. “He would be better off reading a book than speaking on the radio.”

Amsalem, a Netanyahu loyalist, added that “a large portion of the Israeli public” was losing trust in the state prosecution and police over the corruption cases against Netanyahu.

Last month, Amsalem claimed the prime minister was being framed and that “millions” of Israelis would not accept an indictment against Netanyahu.

Former Supreme Court justice Eliyahu Matza. (Wikipedia/Official/CC BY)

In recent days, top Israeli legal officials have been pushing back against Netanyahu and his loyalists, who have criticized the state prosecution’s handling of the three corruption cases against him and warned of efforts to undermine public faith in the rule of law.

Earlier on Sunday, Matza accused Netanyahu of “inciting” against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who is set to make a decision on an indictment, suggesting that the prime minister’s remarks on the matter could constitute a criminal offense.

“I don’t remember, in my entire career, statements like [Netanyahu’s] against law enforcement authorities by someone who wasn’t the head of a crime organization,” said the 84-year-old Matza, who was a judge for 33 years until his retirement from the Supreme Court in 2005.

Matza made the comments after Netanyahu posted a video on Facebook on Saturday night that said the idea of him facing a hearing in the graft cases ahead of the elections on April 9 was akin to a court “in a certain Middle Eastern country” cutting off a thief’s hand — before the thief wins an appeal against his conviction.

“You don’t start hearings before an election if you’re not going to end it by the time of the elections,” he said.

Days earlier, Netanyahu lashed out at “the left” and at “the media,” claiming they were coordinating a “thuggish” campaign to pressure Mandelblit to announce an indictment against him in the near future in order to “steal” the elections.

Matza said he “was embarrassed for [Netanyahu] because he wasn’t embarrassed.”

All elected officials “are subject to the law, and must never, under any circumstances, talk this way, which is nothing less than incitement against the attorney general and law enforcement authorities — actual incitement, in the criminal sense of the word,” he said.

The retired justice urged Mandelblit to publicize whether he would move ahead with pre-indictment hearings before election day, because “the nation has a right to know who its candidates are.”

Police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for bribery in all three of the investigations. Mandelblit is the final authority on whether state prosecutors will ultimately press charges against a sitting prime minister.

The Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted a source in the attorney general’s office as saying that Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision on a possible indictment, pending a hearing, in February, buttressing earlier reports.

Mandelblit has refused to publicly comment on the timeline for his decision.

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)

Last week, Mandelblit complained in a speech about irresponsible attempts to harm the rule of law of Israel and undermine public trust in the law enforcement hierarchies. State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said Friday that Amsalem’s tweet claiming that millions of Israelis would “not accept” an indictment against Netanyahu was “super-problematic.” And state legal officials were quoted anonymously on Friday night’s Israeli TV broadcasts warning that Netanyahu’s political allies were working to delegitimize the state prosecution.

Recently, Mandelblit himself has been the subject of threatening graffiti, and his father’s gravestone was vandalized.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing all three cases against him, and has claimed the investigations are part of a political vendetta and witch hunt aimed to oust him, involving the political left, the media and the police.

Netanyahu has vowed not to step down if Mandelblit announces that he intends to indict him, pending a hearing, in any of the cases against him, asserting that the law does not require him to do so. Judicial officials have anonymously said that this is true, but that Netanyahu would have a “problem” if he sought to stay in office were a formal, final indictment subsequently filed at the completion of the hearing process.

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