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Ombudsman refuses to rule on complaints against Netanyahu prosecutor

Allegation that Liat Ben-Ari altered her property without a permit illegally draws criticism from ex-judge David Rozen, who urges public officials to set example for others

Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari arrives at the District Court in Jerusalem, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari arrives at the District Court in Jerusalem, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The presiding official tasked with investigating misconduct allegations against public servants said he would not get involved in complaints alleging that Liat Ben-Ari, the prosecutor in the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, illegally altered one of her properties, and ruled that local authorities should handle the matter.

The ombudsman of public complaints against state representatives, retired judge David Rozen, said Tuesday that he did not have the authority to speak to the allegations against Ben-Ari, the state attorney for financial enforcement, and that local officials “must be allowed to carry out the [legal process] lawfully without interruption or intervention.”

Ben-Ari became involved in allegations of misconduct after the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported the Rosh Ha’ayin municipality had found that one of her properties had been converted into two separate units without a permit.

The report said that after the municipality’s inspection, Ben-Ari and her husband submitted a request for the construction to be retroactively approved, which the municipality said was expected to be accepted.

In July, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a close ally of the prime minister, called on Ben-Ari to resign over the allegations.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, on July 15, 2020. (FLASH90)

Ohana, who had previously quarreled with Ben-Ari during his tenure as justice minister, said that if the allegations prove to be true then “she should not continue to serve” in her post.

In a statement issued via the ministry at the time, Ben-Ari said that the property was not her family’s personal residence, but had been purchased by a joint purchase group, in which her husband was a member.

The prime minister’s defenders have harshly criticized Ben-Ari and other members of the law enforcement community whom they accuse of attempting to unseat Netanyahu for political reasons.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court. He denies any wrongdoing and has railed against the courts, prosecution, and media for what he terms a “witch hunt.”

Rozen, in his comments Tuesday, issued a general admonishment to public officials who abuse their positions and break the law. “Public servants have a duty to always remember the basic principles of upholding and enforcing the law, and to remember that their conduct is used as an example by all the citizens of the country.”

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