Israel’s Attorney General Taps Second Team to Examine Netanyahu Corruption Cases

Avichai Mendelblit appears to be seeking an extra, devil’s-advocate approach to the evidence against the prime minister

Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at a conference in Jerusalem, November 23, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has set up a second team to examine the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent attempt to obtain an alternative look at the evidence.

In recent years, Netanyahu has been plagued by allegations that include the receiving of allegedly improper gifts from businessmen and the alleged providing of a quid pro quo for positive media coverage.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

The first team looking into these allegations is from the state prosecution’s finance and tax department.

The financial daily Globes reported Tuesday that the second team, which would provide a devil’s-advocate approach, is headed by the deputy attorney general for criminal matters, Amit Marari. It also includes attorneys Reut Gordon and Yonatan Kremer from the state prosecution’s economics department, the paper said.

Kremer is a prosecutor in the corruption cases involving Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.

In March, Globes had reported that a “contrarian” team of prosecutors was being formed to present the defense angles of the evidence, but the Justice Ministry denied this.

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said he was not aware that such a team had been established, and the finance and tax department said the same.

Now the Justice Ministry is saying the latest decision isn’t an unusual one because the deputy attorney general for criminal matters is meant to develop an opinion on such cases, as her predecessor, Raz Nizri, had done – for example in the cases against Lieberman, a former defense and foreign minister.

The main team of prosecutors is headed by the Tel Aviv district attorney for tax and finance, Liat Ben Ari, and her deputy Jonathan Tadmor.

Marari was appointed as deputy attorney in April 2017. She previously served as a prosecutor in the criminal department, dealing with the Supreme Court, and in the international department as an assistant to Elyakim Rubinstein, who was attorney general from 1997 to 2004.

For the past 10 years she has not worked as a prosecutor but as a senior jurist in the legislation and consulting department.

“The deputy attorney general for criminal matters and her team are formulating their opinion on the investigations of the prime minister that have come to the attorney general’s desk, in order to assess the evidence and provide legal analysis of the cases, as has been done in the past,” the Justice Ministry said.