Netanyahu says AG ignoring threats to him, family; Mandelblit: A baseless claim

PM asserts Mandelblit ‘allowing spilling of family’s blood’; the latter notes 29 probes opened into threats, adds leaders must ‘tone down bluster and discourse of hatred’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, later Israel's attorney general, during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, September 21, 2014. (AP/Menahem Kahana, Pool/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, later Israel's attorney general, during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, September 21, 2014. (AP/Menahem Kahana, Pool/File)

Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday of “scandalously” ignoring threats against him and his family, claiming he was putting them at risk as a result.

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

Amid growing public protests against his continued rule, the prime minister has repeatedly claimed the attorney general is not doing enough to address threats against him.

In a 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.

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. Channel 13 news reported Tuesday that amid rising acrimony, the two have not met since March.

In the Tuesday letter, the premier highlighted some protesters’ use of blow-up genitalia with sexually explicit messages directed at his son Yair and wife Sara. Netanyahu also highlighted a tweet in which an unidentified user threatened to rape his wife. Netanyahu claimed that in both instances, Mandelblit had declined to open an immediate investigation.

The man behind the tweet was questioned by police Tuesday, officials said, after it was brought to law enforcement’s attention in recent days. The tweet is from March 2019.

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

The premier wrote: “Every woman, regardless of status and role, deserves to be protected. She is entitled to have the law enforcement agencies you head prosecute those who engage in such heinous violence.”

Knesset opposition chairman Yair Lapid blasted the letter, calling it a “calculated attack” against Mandelblit 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.”

The opposition chair’s fellow faction member, Moshe Ya’aalon, accused Netanyahu of “incitement” against Mandelblit.

“Your trick is transparent: You know the Shin Bet is responsible for your security and [if there’s] any slight suspicion that you’re threatened, all the necessary steps are taken. There is no one more protected than you in Israel,” Ya’alon tweeted.

Ya’alon, a former Likud defense minister, told Netanyahu to “leave the attorney general alone [and] stop playing the victim,” while calling on him to resign due to the prime minister’s indictment on graft charges.

Netanyahu’s letter echoed allegations voiced by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a close ally of of the premier, who claimed late last month there was a “lack of response” from the attorney general in the face of alleged assassination threats against the premier.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at Bar Ilan University, March 4, 2020. (FLASH90)

“We have seen how the [protest] events are exploited [for the expression of] contempt of state symbols, and [as a venue for] serious threats of assassination and unprecedented incitement against the prime minister and his family. However, we are encountering a real lack of response from law enforcement and the attorney general,” Levin wrote in a Facebook post. “The prosecuting authorities should have acted in the same way as the police on the ground, who are the only ones who stand firm in the face of the violent demonstrations.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana has also 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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