State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan on Monday pushed back over apparent intimidation attempts against judicial authorities by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as graft suspicions against the premier move toward a possible indictment.
“We will not be afraid and we will not be deterred by anyone,” Nitzan said at an economic conference.
The comments came days after a report in the Israel Hayom daily that a senior Likud party official — possibly Netanyahu himself — threatened that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit “will become the target of a merciless attack” by party officials if indictments are filed before coming elections in April.
Mandelblit is in the process of deciding whether to indict the prime minister in three separate cases. Police have recommended bribery charges in all three and Nitzan reportedly has as well.
Last week, Channel 10 news reported that Mandelblit had been given extra security over concerns for his safety, as reports emerged that Mandelblit’s father’s gravestone was vandalized earlier this month, sparking condemnation from Israeli leaders and calls for a swift probe by police.
“We will continue our work without fear until its conclusion,” Nitzan vowed. “Until the most appropriate and professional decision is made by the attorney general, as soon as possible. That’s our job. It is our duty. Nothing will distract us from our path.”
Much attention has focused on whether Mandelblit will announce whether he plans to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, before elections scheduled for April 9. The Israel Hayom story had quoted the Likud source saying that Mandelblit “wouldn’t dare” do so.
“The attorney general, myself, and all the others involved in the work are committed to ending the discussions as soon as possible,” Nitzan said. “We are in the midst of the process and when it is finished we will publish a clear and formal announcement.”
Among the suspicions being probed are allegations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
In another case, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues.
He is also being investigated for an alleged quid pro quo deal with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble rival Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Nitzan also spoke about the previous day’s arrest of three Jewish minors as part of a possible terror probe in the West Bank.
“There is a single attitude to terror,” Nitzan said. “It must be fought by all legal means. Terrorism on both sides endangers state security.”
Much of the case remains under gag order and lawyers for the three say they have not been allowed access to counsel. On Monday, a Lod court said the Shin Bet would have to allow lawyers to see the three on Tuesday.
“We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that only legitimate and reasonable measures are used in the struggle against terrorism. Thus, we supervise the actions of the security forces and examine every complaint filed against them. So we have done in the past and that is what we will do in the future,” he added.
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