Israel's Attorney General Flip Flops to Back Prosecutor in Gantz Probe

After initially objecting to launching the investigation of a firm once headed by Netanyahu's electoral rival just before the March 2 election, Mendelblit now insists a decision to go ahead with it is not political

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at an event at Bar-Ilan University, March 28, 2019.
Nir Keidar

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit expressed his support for acting State Prosecutor Dan Eldad on Monday, saying Eldad’s decisions were not made for political reasons.

Haaretz revealed that Eldad had given his approval for police to launch a criminal investigation into Fifth Dimension, the company which Benny Gantz chaired, even before next month’s election after only one meeting with Mendelblit – and against his recommendation.

On Thursday, it was reported that Eldad only became familiar with the case earlier last week after being asked to decide on it by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Mendelblit described the events that led up to Eldad’s announcement on opening a police investigation. Mendelblit said that after the state comptroller released his report on the police’s contract with Fifth Dimension, the Justice Ministry asked for further documents from the State Comptroller’s Office on the matter.

At the end of January, it became clear that no elected officials were involved in the affair and the “matter was not yet ready for a final decision,” added Mendelblit. As a result, he scheduled another meeting on the question for the end of February.

But even before this meeting was held, “the acting state prosecutor considered the matter and formed an opinion on the matter,” said Mendelblit. Eldad clarified “to me once again that no elected official was involved in the matter, and also presented to me his position that after considering the matter he thought that it was possible to move forward with it.”

Mendelblit says he informed Eldad later that it was customary for the decision on the matter to be made in the state prosecutor’s office and not by the attorney general. That very same day Eldad announced he had decided to open a police investigation, said Mendelblit.

In his speech, Mendelblit did not mention his objections to opening the investigation so close to the election. Haaretz reported earlier that Mendelblit believed that the decision on opening the investigation should have been put off until after the election because of its sensitivity.

Eldad said in response that according to Mendelblit’s own guidelines, the political schedule must not be allowed to influence criminal matters – and because no elected officials were suspects, the investigation should not be delayed.

“I am convinced, and I want to say it here in a clear way, that the acting state prosecutor did not act out political considerations,” said Mendelblit at the conference.

“This is a false claim that is intended to damage the public’s faith in the prosecution and it must be rejected completely. I also want to say here as clearly as possible: The acting state prosecutor and I are determined to work in full cooperation on behalf of promoting the rule of law in the country, and on behalf of bolstering the independent status of the prosecution,” he added.