Vandals sprayed graffiti along Israel’s coastal highway over the weekend that targeted Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, police announced Wednesday. Police launched an investigation.
It was the second act of vandalism in a month against the attorney general, who has been considering whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases.
Mandelblit has been pressured both by Netanyahu supporters who want him to close the cases and by opponents of the prime minister who accused him of stalling on an indictment.
In the latest incident, vandals painted “Mandelblit is a collaborator” on a wall separating the coastal highway from the town of Or Akiva, across the road from Caesarea.
— חדשות עשר (@news10) January 2, 2019
Last week, media outlets learned that Mandelblit’s father’s grave had been vandalized in mid-December, with the tombstone cracked in several places.
The media coverage coincided with a report in the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily that included comments attributed to a senior Likud party official warning of a “merciless” attack on the attorney general by party officials should he announce an indictment against the premier before the Knesset elections in April.
A different version of the same Israel Hayom story attributed the comments not to a senior Likud source but to Netanyahu himself.
The prime minister has denied making the remarks and strongly condemned the cemetery attack, although he hinted the timing of reports on the vandalism was politically motivated.
Ephraim Ehrlich, a former police commander and friend of the Mandelblit family, said at the time that it was he who had informed media outlets about the vandalism. Ehrlich said Mandelblit asked friends not to publicize the incident, but he decided to go public with the vandalism after the Likud official threatened Mandelblit in Israel Hayom.
Mandelblit’s security detail has been expanded in recent weeks, with officials linking the added security to police intelligence on possible threats against him, Channel 10 news reported the day after the gravestone vandalism.
The decision to boost security for Mandelblit was made prior to that incident, the TV report said, adding that a further assessment about security for the attorney general would be held in the near future.
Mandelblit was first given a bodyguard two years ago, according to the network, due to weekly protests by left-wing demonstrators outside his home calling for him to press charges against Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, has denied wrongdoing and portrays the graft cases as part of a conspiracy against him encompassing left-wing activists, the media and law enforcement officials.
Opposition politicians have accused Netanyahu of fostering a climate of hatred against the attorney general and law enforcement.
Police have recommended Netanyahu be indicted for bribery in each of the three probes against him.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
In Case 4000, Netanyahu is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Hebrew media on Tuesday reported that during an annual meeting last week of senior legal figures, including former Supreme Court justices and former attorney generals, Mandelblit said he felt it was “his duty” to announce an indictment for the prime minister in the corruption cases subject to a hearing. Such a move would send a strong signal that an indictment is likely to follow, complicating Netanyahu’s determination to lead his Likud party in the elections.
Earlier on Tuesday, Channel 10 TV quoted legal sources as saying a hearing process should take about a year, and that there would be no legal issues if Netanyahu chose to continue serving as premier during that time.
Only after the hearing would Mandelblit make a final decision on whether or not to indict Netanyahu, who has vowed to not step down even if he is charged.