Supreme Court judge Menachem Mazuz appeared to blast Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a recording published Monday, decrying a “lack of leadership” amid mounting criminal investigations involving the premier and his associates.
“Public and media discourse gives the difficult impression of a leadership crisis,” Mazuz could be heard saying in the recording, aired by the Hadashot TV news outlet. “Everyone is lamenting the lack of leadership.”
Mazuz, commonly known by his nickname Meni, did not directly name Netanyahu in the recording, which came from a closed-door lecture Sunday at the Hebrew University’s law school in Jerusalem. But he slammed the behavior of the country’s political leadership, calling it “worrisome.”
“It looks like the main contributing factor, at least in public discourse, is the phenomenon of lack of personal example in some of the political leaders’ behavior,” he told recent graduates in prepared remarks.
Mazuz’s comments came as Netanyahu was set to be questioned in a probe known as Case 4000, in which the Communications Ministry is suspected of clearing regulatory hurdles for the Bezeq telecom giant in exchange for positive coverage from the Walla news site. Both are owned by Netanyahu’s friend Shaul Elovitch, who has been arrested in the case.
Police have already recommended charges of bribery in two other cases against Netanyahu, sparking a fight between the prime minister and his backers and the law enforcement community, which has been accused of managing a witchhunt against the premier and his family.
Netanyahu has denied the allegations against him and resisted calls to step down, downplaying the severity of the suspicions against him, and making comments that some have said could damage trust in the judicial system.
Most coalition politicians have refrained from criticizing Netanyahu, as have high ranking judicial officials, including Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, making the comments by Mazuz rare.
Responding to the report on the remarks, Mazuz denied they were specifically aimed at Netanyahu. “The remarks weren’t aimed at specific events or people, their goal was rather to call on the alumni to contribute to the state and to society,” he said, according to Hadashot.
The judge is best remembered for indicting former prime minister Ehud Olmert on graft charges when he was attorney general. He also decided to allow former president Moshe Katsav to be indicted for sex offenses and former finance minister Avraham Hirschson for corruption. However, he also decided not to indict former prime minister Ariel Sharon in a corruption case dubbed the Greek island affair.
Avi Gabbay, head of the opposition Zionist Union party, lauded Mazuz for the comments.
“Justice Meni Mazuz, the man who didn’t shy away from indicting a president, a prime minister and a finance minister, precisely explains the damage of a leadership that has no values,” he said.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak said Mazuz’s remarks “put a mirror in front of a failed political leadership.”