Public security minister calls on Netanyahu prosecutor to resign

Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari comes under fire after Israel Hayom report claims she subdivided a house into two apartments without proper permits

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)

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana called on the lead prosecutor in the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign on Sunday over allegations that she had violated the law by splitting her home into two separate apartments without a permit.

“If this is indeed what happened, I think it’s a shame and disgrace that those who preach all day long for clean hands, moral purity and the observance of the law, and invent cases that did not exist, are suddenly revealed in their corruption,” Ohana, a close ally of the prime minister, told Channel 20.

On Sunday, the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported that an inspector for the Rosh Ha’ayin municipality had found that the prosecutor, Deputy State Attorney for Financial Enforcement Liat Ben-Ari, had created a separate entrance to the basement of her home without first obtaining a building permit, effectively creating two units out of one.

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” at the ministry.

Amir Ohana at a Public Security Ministry changeover ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a statement issued via the ministry, 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.

Last October, aides to the prime minister harshly criticized Ben-Ari after she went on vacation in the middle of pre-indictment legal proceedings. A source close to Netanyahu said that she had given the impression that she had already decided the outcome of the hearings and therefore did not bother attending. The Justice Ministry defended her, but a ministry source acknowledged her actions showed a lack of public sensitivity.

Netanyahu and his allies have hit back hard at critics in recent years, accusing the police and state prosecution of an “attempted coup,” after he was indicted on bribery, breach of trust and fraud charges last year and repeatedly attacking the news media for what he claims is unfavorable coverage. He denies any wrongdoing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks with attorney Micha Fettman (L) inside the court room as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court. At the time, his attorney implicitly compared the premier’s upcoming corruption trial to the prosecution of Nazi war criminals following the end of World War II.

A judge ruled Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will begin to hear testimony from witnesses in January 2021, with hearings to be held three times a week.

Though the prime minister attended the first hearing, he did not make an appearance in the courtroom on Sunday.

Netanyahu is accused of offering to push legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications. He has also been charged with accepting some $200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.

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