Israel's AG Says Attacks on Judiciary Will Grow as Netanyahu Probes Near an End

'Only last week we heard the claim that in some ways the Justice Ministry is like Sodom,' Mendelblit says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, December 27, 2015.
Marc Israel Sellem

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said Wednesday that efforts to delegitimize his work and the work of law enforcement can be expected to intensify as prosecutors come closer to a decision on the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mendelblit added that he couldn’t say when the review of the cases would be completed.

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Speaking at a conference in Eilat marking the 70th anniversary of the state prosecution, Mendelblit addressed the attacks on the prosecution from the right, saying, “Only last week we heard the claim that in some ways the Justice Ministry is like Sodom, and on another occasion it was claimed that the prosecution has a political bias and is persecuting the prime minister. These and other efforts to prevent a decision on whether to prosecute, regardless of the results of the investigation, are unacceptable, just like the parallel efforts that seek to force a decision to prosecute at any price, before the investigations are completed, regardless of the results.”

Mandelblit addressed remarks last week by coalition chairman David Amsalem, who told Reshet Bet Radio he “expects at least one righteous man in Sodom” in the prosecution and, when asked if he saw the Justice Ministry as Sodom, responded, “In certain respects, yes.” Later, in an interview with the Knesset Channel, Amsalem was asked if he stood behind his earlier remarks. He said that, in regard to the handling of the Netanyahu cases, “You can add Gomorrah, too.”

“I would expect anyone for whom the state prosecution is important to take our side and utterly reject such statements,” Mendelblit said. “The issue becomes even more important given the challenging period we face, inter alia, as the date for deciding on the files relating to the prime minister approaches. I cannot say yet when exactly the joint, intensive work by the Israel Police and the State Prosecutor’s Office in these cases will end, and when a decision will be made about them, but I do know that the efforts to delegitimize the work of the state prosecution, and my work as head of the prosecution, will only intensify.”

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich also addressed the attacks on law enforcement in his address to the conference. “The police are being buried under mountains of slander, from one political side to the other and back,” with regard to investigations against elected officials.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the lawyers, “You have a tremendous responsibility. The State of Israel has placed great power in your hands, and has full faith that you will use it fairly and properly, without regard to media or street campaigns. Any prosecutor who comes to the conclusion that he must withdraw an indictment will do so without hesitation.”

The event was also addressed by President Reuven Rivlin. “Sometimes you encounter a lack of backing from some elected officials, and from time to time you have to cope with those senior to you to maintain proper administration and protect the rule of law,” Rivlin told the attorneys. “For the sake of all of us, do not fear any man. It is your duty not to let the background noises intervene in your judgment, and to guard your moral and professional backbone. Never submit to slander or to pressure to divert justice or delay it.”

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At the same time, Rivlin called on the prosecution to be attentive to businesslike criticism of it, adding that he himself was harmed by the lengthy handling of suspicions against him. In the early 2000s police investigated Rivlin’s connections with contractor David Appel, and in one instance recommended that he be tried. Appel served time for three counts of bribery, but all the cases against Rivlin were closed.

Mendelblit has yet to address the nature of the offenses attributed to the prime minister. Police transferred Case 1000 (the cigar-and-champagne case) and Case 2000 (quid-pro-quos with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes) to the state prosecution in February with a recommendation to prosecute for bribery. The investigation into Case 4000 (the Bezeq-Walla affair) is nearing completion. If an early general election is called, it is possible that decisions in the Netanyahu cases will be made only afterward.