Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will oppose attempts to grant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases, his associates were quoted Tuesday evening as saying.
The comments were a response to a Monday newspaper report claiming that former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who now leads the right-wing Yamina party, had at one point offered to use her purported influence with Mandelblit to ensure the closure of three criminal investigations against Netanyahu if she were allowed to join his Likud party as a Knesset candidate. Shaked firmly denied the claim.
On Tuesday, unidentified Justice Ministry officials told Channel 13 Mandelblit and Shaked had never spoken with each other about Netanyahu’s criminal cases.
They added that Mandelblit would fight any attempt to provide Netanyahu with immunity, oppose such a proposal if it is tabled at the Knesset committee in charge of the parliament’s internal rules, and would not agree to defend such a motion in the High Court of Justice.
Netanyahu is facing charges in three separate cases, pending a hearing with Mandelblit.
Throughout most of June and July, as the political system geared up for new elections, Shaked, a popular figure on the political right, but a failed candidate in the April race, made intensive efforts to join the Likud party’s senior ranks.
She reportedly used interlocutors to lobby influential figures in the ruling party, including Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who is thought by Likud officials to wield significant influence over the prime minister’s political decisions.
But Shaked’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, in part because of longstanding enmity between her and the Netanyahu family, who have long suspected her of involvement in leaks of damaging information linked to Netanyahu. Some high-ranking Likud politicians also sought to torpedo her efforts, seeing little benefit to themselves in adding a popular future competitor to the party’s top tier.
It was during this lobbying effort that Shaked is alleged to have sent messengers to various figures in Netanyahu’s orbit to offer what Haaretz described as “full support for granting Netanyahu immunity and preventing his indictment.” The paper said it had seen written exchanges and heard recordings of “political figures” making the offers, purportedly on Shaked’s behalf.
Following that report, members of the left-wing Democratic Camp asked Mandelblit to open an investigation against Shaked for suspected bribery, obstruction of justice and breach of trust.
Shaked vehemently denied the report, calling it “a low and ugly attempt to slander me. If the statements quoted [in the report] were in fact said by someone, that’s very serious. But they have nothing to do with me and were not said with my knowledge. I’ve never spoken to the attorney general about criminal cases, and even more so when it comes to the Netanyahu cases.”
Mandelblit announced earlier this year his intention to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in the three cases, and for bribery in one of them, pending a hearing.
The hearing has been set for October 2-3, delayed from its original date of July 10, at the request of the prime minister’s defense team.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
Reports surfaced repeatedly in the weeks before and after the April election claiming Netanyahu was demanding that Likud lawmakers and MKs from potential coalition partners agree to support granting him parliamentary immunity from prosecution in the graft cases as a precondition for joining his planned coalition.
Netanyahu has denied making such a demand of any party or lawmaker.