After attending the first hearing of his corruption trial Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted several leaders of protests in support of him, reportedly including one activist who has been questioned on suspicion of incitement against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli premier to stand a criminal trial, taking the defendant’s bench at the Jerusalem District Court. Before the hearing, he delivered a lengthy speech in which he assailed the court cases as “fabricated” and railed against Mandelblit, accusing him of election-meddling and trying, along with the law enforcement system, to oust him from power.
Opposing rallies were held nearby, one in support of of Netanyahu outside the court and one against him outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street.
The premier later hosted several of the leaders of the pro-Netanyahu rallies at his official residenc to show his gratitude.
One of those lucky activists was Orly Lev, who was identified by Channel 12 as one of two protest leaders who were detained and questioned under caution by police earlier this month, on suspicion of threatening and harassing Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee who previously served as his chief of staff, but earlier this year made the decision to indict the prime minister for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
Mandelblit has come under fire for pursuing criminal charges against Netanyahu, with the premier and his loyalists waging a widespread campaign against him in recent weeks.
Lev, according to the report, published Mandelblit’s personal phone number in WhatsApp groups she manages.
She allegedly wrote about the attorney general that “this smile must be wiped off his face.” She also allegedly called Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut “the bitchiest judge in Israel.”
Photos posted by Lev on Facebook after the hearing showed her alongside Netanyahu at the residence, apparently one of the few given that honor.
Lev and the other suspect had been questioned May 14 by the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit. They were both released after several hours under restrictive conditions.
A lawyer representing one of the suspects said at the time that his client was involved with legitimate criticism of the attorney general.
“The leaky police are trying to silence legitimate criticism. My client did not threaten or harass Mandelblit — she asked citizens to contact him and demand answers from him. A person with power like Mandelblit must give the public answers,” Yitzchak Bam told the Kan public broadcaster.
Mandelblit filed a police complaint a day earlier regarding the threats.
A statement from the Justice Ministry said Mandelblit had provided testimony to police investigators and that the messages, many of which were sent to the attorney general’s cellphone over the previous day, appeared to be part of an organized campaign.
“This harassment and threats, which were apparently organized, continued throughout the night and morning. The harassment includes threats, derisive statements and incitement,” the statement said.
The ministry did not indicate who may have been behind the harassment.
Among the messages sent to Mandelblit were “You and your family will die,” “You should kill yourself” and “We’ll get to you and your kids,” as well as a photo of him in a Nazi uniform, Channels 12 and 13 reported. He was also sent a clip of a coffin being carried, the report said.
Mandelblit has also come under fire over the last several weeks after a journalist broke a gag order to raise questions about Mandelblit’s conduct in the so-called Harpaz affair, a 2010 scandal in which he was briefly suspected of having helped military brass cover up a smear campaign. The case against him was later dropped.
On Saturday, Likud minister Yoav Gallant, another player in the scandal, said that “Mandelblit … owes the public an explanation.”
Mandelblit had already been a popular target for supporters of the prime minister over the filing of the indictments last year, which Netanyahu has decried as an “attempted coup” orchestrated by the media, the opposition, the police and the state prosecution, led by Mandelblit.
Police have previously investigated alleged harassment of Mandelblit, and in 2018, his father’s grave was defaced.