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Netanyahu meets AG after claiming he’s not taking threats against PM seriously

Following bitter exchange and amid tensions over his criminal indictment, premier meets with Mandelblit for first parlay since March

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on November 20, 2019 (left), Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit addresses the press in Jerusalem on November 21, 2019. (Gali Tibon, Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on November 20, 2019 (left), Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit addresses the press in Jerusalem on November 21, 2019. (Gali Tibon, Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Wednesday afternoon, a day after publicly accusing Mandelblit of not taking threats against him and his family seriously.

In a letter sent to Mandelblit and publicized on the prime minister’s Telegram channel, Netanyahu wrote Tuesday: “Zero action on your part in the face of calls to murder my family and I and rape threats against my wife amounts to nothing less than to scandalously allow the spilling of our blood.”

In response, Mandelblit told the prime minister that “there is no basis to your claim that [we’re] ignoring complaints regarding you or any of your family members.”

Mandelblit noted that in recent months 29 investigations had been opened over such threats and 10 more cases of possible incitement were being examined. He added that he had recently discussed the prime minister’s security with the heads of the police and the Shin Bet security service to ensure any threats were being addressed appropriately, and was satisfied that they were.

He said that all sides should “tone down the bluster and discourse of hatred” and added that “public leaders have a central role and responsibility in calming the spirits.” Otherwise, he said, there could be “serious and unforgivable consequences.”

Netanyahu has inveighed against an alleged rise in threats against him on social media, some of which later turned out to have been posted by fake Facebook accounts. His complaints have coincided with ongoing protests against him due to his indictment on corruption charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. There have also been threats and violence against anti-Netanyahu protesters, only some of which the premier has condemned.

Protesters demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, on August 08, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu and his allies have also frequently lashed out at Mandelblit, who was the prime minster’s choice for attorney general, for having indicted him in a series of graft cases.

Wednesday’s meeting appeared to be the first between the prime minister and Mandelblit since March.

Knesset opposition chairman Yair Lapid blasted Netanyahu’s Tuesday accusations against Mandelblit, calling it a “calculated attack” meant to “divert public discourse from the fact that [Netanyahu] has failed miserably in managing the economy in the midst of the pandemic.”

Lapid lauded those protesting regularly outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence and all across the county and asserted that those making threats against the premier and his family are “are wrong and marginal.”

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, on July 15, 2020. (Flash90)

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana has claimed several times that protests across the country against corruption and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic are part of a trend of “incitement” against Netanyahu that he says is worse than the lead-up to the 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Ohana, a Likud party ally of Netanyahu who previously clashed with Mandelblit repeatedly as justice minister, also sent Mandelblit a letter accusing the attorney general of ignoring alleged threats on the premier’s life.

In his stinging response, Mandelblit described Ohana’s letter as “riddled with unfounded and false claims against law enforcement.”

Mandelblit said that there were no specific, credible threats that in his estimation justified an investigation. He added that credible threats had previously been probed, and stressed he didn’t “make light of the severity of threats of incitement.”

He said all his office’s decisions were “made only on a professional and matter-of-fact basis, never from improper or personal considerations,” noting that criminal investigations were opened in three cases of threats against Netanyahu, and charges were filed in one of them.

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