The press gets Mandelblitzed
Hebrew media review

The press gets Mandelblitzed

The first public comments by the attorney general since police called for Netanyahu to be indicted give the media the chance to play a game of 'will he or won't he'

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 5, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 5, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

It’s never a good idea to try and climb inside someone’s head, but that is seemingly what papers try to do Friday as focus on the graft scandals surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turns to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and trying to figure out what he will do with the police recommendations to indict.

On Thursday evening, Mandelblit gave his first public speech since police recommendations to indict the premier were made known.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s main headline is a long quote from Mandelblit saying that while it’s not a nice thing to have to do, “I have no problem charging the prime minister.”

“The warm smiles, greeting and repeated applause Mandelblit got during his public appearance last night at Tel Aviv University — the first since the police recommendations — did not manage to hide the fact that he had come there to deliver a clear message. Under the shadow of criticism seemingly heard in the prosecution over the recommendations to indict the prime minister on suspicion of bribery, Mandelblit gave a sharp speech during which he totally dismissed these claims, gave full backing to the police chief and his men and mostly clarified that all law enforcement agencies were, and remain, in coordination between them regarding the probes into Netanyahu,” the paper reports.

Israel Hayom also plays up Manelblit’s speech, but its headline “The Netanyahu cases will be investigated by the book, with no outside interference’ — almost makes it sound as if he is cottoning to the claims of police bias.

The story makes clear, though, that Mandelblit is giving full backing to the cops, and though he admits that yes, there are some pieces missing in the police work, “that’s how it goes with any investigation,” the paper quotes him saying.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv on February 14, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Columnist Amnon Lord, though, claims that Mandelblit is under public pressure “to an insane degree,” and no matter what will probably be forced to squeeze at least a breach of trust charge out of the police recommendations, seemingly laying the groundwork for the next round of excuses to defend Netanyahu should the case move on.

“Whatever the indictment is, and it is also possible that Mandelblit will find the entire investigation invalid, it is doubtful that Netanyahu can hope for a fair trial. The propaganda press against him and the axe of hatred permeates everywhere, and it is hard to believe that the courts are free of these influences,” he writes.

In Haaretz, Gidi Weitz notes that the leaks out of the prosecution about shoddy police work may turn out to be nothing, but for the time being, they hint at the fact that Mandelblit may drag his feet in prosecuting Netanyahu, seemingly laying the groundwork for the next round of excuses should the prime minister get off scot-free.

“This much is clear: Mandelblit and senior prosecutors are not happy, to say the least, with the bottom line of the police recommendation, including its harsh tone and the inclusion of detailed evidence. ‘They set a high bar that it’s doubtful we will be able to stand by,’ a senior official in the prosecutor’s office said this week. The lack of satisfaction from the attorney general and his people hint at the upshot, that the chances that Mandelblit will adopt the spirit of the recommendations is low,” he writes.

No matter what Mandelblit decides, in Yedioth columnist Eshkol Nevo writes that the people don’t need to wait until he comes out with his recommendations, but can act now to send Netanyahu packing.

“If the coalition partners had any sense of national responsibility, they would have gotten up on Wednesday morning and made clear to him [that he needs to step down]. Since they did not do that, the responsibility falls on us. Lovers of the land. Left and right. Religious and secular. Jews and Arabs. It’s up to us to make clear to Netanyahu: the country is not you, it is us. Law-abiding citizens who respect that institutions of state, who believe in its democratic heritage, who are ready to take upon themselves the authority of a prime minister they don’t agree with, just so long as his hands are clean,” he writes.

As for who that person to replace Netanyahu might be, Haaret’s Yossi Verter sees Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid waiting in the wings, now Likud enemy number 1 but also the anti-Netanyahu.

“For a long time, the Yesh Atid leader was careful not to attack Netanyahu personally; he reserved his vitriol for ‘the Left,’ for human rights organizations, for Haaretz. Now he can feel more liberated. The gloves will come off. The price could well be paid by Avi Gabbay and Zionist Union, which Gabbay now heads. Yesh Atid will continue to gobble up their presumed Knesset seats,” he writes. “In the short run, Lapid appears to have been hurt. The soft-right voters whom he sought to sway are liable to object to what he did (giving evidence against the prime minister) and hold a grudge against him. But in the long run, the situation might turn in his favor. The direct clash with Likud definitively positions Lapid as Netanyahu’s chief rival for the top spot. As long as the corruption issue continues to occupy public discourse, he is likely to find himself in the position of the big winner – the only one, actually.”

Nearly competing with the Netanyahu scandal for the top news spot (and in Israel Hayom’s case supplanting it) is the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, including several members of the Jewish community. Israel Hayom reports some 20 Israelis attended the school, and quotes one, Noa Golan, describing the moments of horror.

In this February 14, 2018 photo, students run with their hands in the air following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

“We heard shots and screams, my teacher told us to run outside and so we did,” the 16-year-old was quoted saying. “When I got outside I called my mom in hysterics.”

Yedioth Ahronoth puts the number of Jews killed in the massacre at six, one more than the other papers, citing the Zaka rescue organization, which includes athletic director Chris Hixon, though the Associated Press reported he attended a Catholic church.

As is par for the course after mass shootings, the paper includes a column marveling at how the US has such a hard getting itself together and enacting gun control.

“The Florida shooter published on social media pictures of him with guns and wrote that he wanted to kill as many people as possible. He also went to a shooting range with a neo-Nazi group,” US correspondent Orly Azulay writes, bending the facts a bit to make them sharper. “He was treated at a mental hospital. All these things together should stop him from being able to buy a gun, if someone had bothered to look into his past, or at least ask why a 19-year-old needs an automatic weapon. But in the future it also won;t be asked, because American is addicted to guns, and the NRA, which controls many politicians, only encourages this addiction.”

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