Law enforcement and state prosecution officials on Thursday night directed severe criticism at Acting State Attorney Dan Eldad over his speedy decision to order a criminal probe into a cybersecurity firm that was once headed by Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz.
Speaking to Hebrew media anonymously, one official accused Eldad of being a “Trojan horse” and another saying he was a lackey of the ruling Likud party.
Eldad on Thursday announced a criminal probe into Fifth Dimension, which was led by Gantz before it went bankrupt. A statement from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit indicated Gantz is not a suspect in the case.
Blue and White officials accused Eldad and Justice Minister Amir Ohana, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of leaking reports of the investigation before it became public, according to Channel 12. Ohana recently appointed Eldad to the position in a move that angered other top justice officials and was initially opposed by Mandelblit.
The Haaretz daily reported that prosecution officials had been surprised by Eldad’s decision, its timing mere days before a national election and the swiftness in which it was made: They said he’d only learned the details of the case this past week.
A senior state prosecution official told the paper that Eldad was behaving as “the justice minister’s lackey” and a “consigliere” — an adviser to a mafia boss.
Another said: “We’ve become Turkey. Eldad is turning the prosecution political.”
Haaretz also claimed Mandelblit had been critical of the decision in closed conversations.
One unnamed law enforcement official told the Ynet news site Eldad had proven himself to be “a Trojan horse who’s entered the prosecution.”
Officials claimed to the website that since entering his post some two weeks ago, Eldad had been inundated with appeals by Likud officials, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, to launch a probe into Fifth Dimension.
Meanwhile another prosecution source backing Eldad told Ynet he was simply following the recently submitted legal opinion in the affair of Deputy State Attorney for Criminal Matters Shlomo Lemberger — Mandelblit’s original pick for acting state attorney.
And speaking to Channel 12, a source close to Eldad said it was not the decision to launch an investigation that was political, but rather the attempts to delay it. They said the case of Fifth Dimension was the only one of 19 problematic cases flagged by the state comptroller recently that had not been submitted to police for investigation.
The New Right party’s Ayelet Shaked, a former justice minister, tweeted: “The attempt to ascribe political considerations to Dan Eldad is wrong. Dan is a loyal public servant who has served in the prosecution for over 20 years.” She said that attacks on him were “shameful.”
Mandelblit’s office on Thursday gave the green light to the Eldad to proceed as he saw fit in the probe into the company, but said that Mandelblit himself was not involved in the case. The statement implied that Gantz was not considered a potential suspect, as Mandelblit would have to be involved in the case if he were.
After retiring from the army, Gantz headed Fifth Dimension, a cybersecurity company that entered talks with police over the sale of its product. According to the state comptroller, a governmental watchdog, the police may have violated acquisition laws by forgoing a tender in its dealings with the company.
In the first stage of the investigation, only company officials will be questioned, according to Eldad’s instructions. Then, if it is deemed necessary to investigate police officers, the case will be transferred to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, according to Channel 12.
Gantz denied any wrongdoing after media reports Wednesday said a probe would be launched into the affair.
While Gantz has not been named as a suspect in the affair, the development comes less than two weeks before national elections and during a campaign by Gantz’s party that has tried to focus attention on Netanyahu’s indictment for corruption charges.
“It all sounds like political pressure to get this thing on the public agenda,” Gantz told Army Radio Thursday. “I am totally at ease. This was checked in the past and no criminal suspicion was found.”
Later in the day, after the criminal investigation was announced, Gantz said he had “a lot of confidence in law enforcement and have no problem with any probe they want to do. To me, there are no criminal elements in this matter.”
Speaking during a campaign rally, he accused Netanyahu’s Likud party of pushing for the probe to distract from the premier’s corruption trial, which will begin next month.
Netanyahu, in a response to the decision to open a criminal investigation, issued a brief statement saying, “The public must know the truth, here and now, and before the elections.”
Israel goes to the polls on March 2, the third national vote in less than a year after two elections in 2019 ended inconclusively, with neither Netanyahu or Gantz able to forge a coalition government. Pre-election surveys have predicted similar results in next month’s vote, potentially extending the deadlock.
It’s not clear if the reports over the affair will move the needle in any way. The months leading up to the campaign have been marked by other bombshells, including the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan and the setting of a date for the beginning of Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which have not dramatically affected opinion polls.
Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three cases in which he is accused of receiving lavish gifts from billionaire friends and of exchanging regulatory favors with media moguls for more palatable media coverage of him and his family.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the charges have been trumped up by a hostile justice system, police and media out to get him. His trial is set to begin on March 17.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.