Former Supreme Court Justice Mazuz says Netanyahu tried to ‘crush’ legal system

Recently retired judge tells Haaretz Israel was ‘close’ to democratic collapse, describes ex-premier’s first court appearance last year as ‘a scary scene’

File: Supreme Court Justice Menachem (Meni) Mazuz at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 10, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Supreme Court Justice Menachem (Meni) Mazuz at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 10, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Recently retired Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz slammed former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview published Friday, saying he led efforts to suppress Israel’s judicial system.

“There was an ongoing attempt to crush the police, the [state] prosecution, the attorney general, the courts,” Mazuz told Haaretz.

“The legal system is supposed to balance the power of the government, and as soon as it crashes — the whole structure collapses. We have examples from the area, not very far from here, that show how a democratic system collapses. We were close, no doubt,” said Mazuz, who retired from the court in April.

“In the past, these attacks came from the margins. This time they came from the prime minister, with the highlight of course being his appearance as a defendant in court, with government ministers standing behind him. It was a scary scene from a fictional movie,” he said.

Mazuz was referring to Netanyahu’s appearance outside the court for the start of his corruption trial in May 2020. Flanked by ministers and lawmakers from his Likud party, Netanyahu ripped into police and prosecutors as he became the first Israeli premier to stand trial on criminal charges while in office.

“Elements in the police and State Attorney’s Office banded together with left-wing journalists… to fabricate baseless cases against me,” Netanyahu charged at the time.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by Likud lawmakers, gives a televised statement before the start of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In 2018, Mazuz sparked controversy when a recording of him was broadcast in which he appeared to blast then-PM Netanyahu’s government, decrying a “lack of leadership” amid criminal investigations involving the premier and his associates.

Before being named to the bench in 2014, Mazuz served as attorney general from 2004-2010.

He is best remembered for indicting former prime minister Ehud Olmert on graft charges when he was attorney general. He allowed former president Moshe Katsav to be indicted for sex offenses and former finance minister Avraham Hirschson for corruption. He also decided not to indict former prime minister Ariel Sharon in a corruption case that was dubbed “the Greek island affair.”

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