Former state prosecutor Moshe Lador, who oversaw the prosecution of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, said Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign from his post over the criminal charges set to be filed against him.
Speaking to Kan public radio, Lador said, “He must not continue in his role. It is the duty of the public and political system to stop it.”
Lador argued there was a conflict of interest in Netanyahu remaining the top official in the country while he is criticizing its justice system for prosecuting him. Moreover, continued Lador, the sheer burden of defending himself against the charges will prevent him from carrying out his duties as prime minister.
“There is no flesh and blood person who, in a situation like this can run the country and in parallel his [personal] affairs,” he said. “A prime minister acting against the system that he is in charge of, is that not a clear conflict of interest? He is violating his duties.”
On Thursday, Mandelblit announced criminal charges against Netanyahu in three cases. The announcement marked the first time in Israel’s history a sitting prime minister has faced indictment on criminal counts. Netanyahu has vowed to stay in office while he fights the charges, which he has decried as a politically motivated “attempted coup,” attacked prosecutors for framing him through a “tainted” process, and called for “investigating the investigators” in his cases.
“The only government coup, that every reasonable person can see, is the coup the prime minister is carrying about against the law enforcement system,” Lador said.
Lador, who served in the top legal post between 2007 and 2013 and under whose watch former prime minister Ehud Olmert was charged and convicted of bribery, said Netanyahu is attacking the justice system and police “not because he has honest criticism” but for his “personal good.”
Lador has previously called for Netanyahu to step down. In December 2018, before Mandelblit had announced that he would seek an indictment, Lador said it was “unthinkable” that Netanyahu was continuing to steer the country, claiming the premier’s every decision was affected by his legal interests.
Netanyahu, he reasoned at the time, should step down in order to avoid such a situation.
Since then Mandelblit held pre-indictment hearings in the trio of corruption cases against the prime minister before finally announcing last week that charges will filed in all three. Earlier this week he ruled that Netanyahu does not need to resign as he is currently only a caretaker prime minister of a transitional government.
The charges include bribery, fraud and breach of trust in one case and additional fraud and breach of trust charges in another two cases.
On Wednesday, former Likud justice minister Dan Meridor also called on Netanyahu to resign.
“Morally, with such a serious indictment, you should resign,” he said during an interview with Army Radio.
Meridor, who held several ministerial posts under Netanyahu during his 21 years as a lawmaker between 1984 and 2013 but has more recently sharply criticized the prime minister, called on current party MKs to not support granting Netanyahu parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Netanyahu has not yet said if he will seek immunity, but is widely expected to do so. The process to do so requires convening the Knesset House Committee but the panel has not been established for nearly a year amid a political deadlock that has not been resolve despite two rounds of elections, and which seems destined to force another vote in the coming months unless a last-minute government coalition can be formed before a December 11 deadline.
The corruption suspicions against the prime minister, and his expected attempt to seek immunity, have been a key sticking point in coalition and unity government negotiations.
Olmert served as prime minister between 2006 and 2009. He was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, one of the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.
Olmert stepped down before indictments were filed in order to fight his legal battles and was released from Ma’asiyahu Prison in July 2017 after serving 16 months of a 27-month sentence for accepting bribes and obstructing justice.