Israeli Justice Minister Lashes Out at Law Enforcement, Echoing 'Deep State' Rhetoric

Likud Minister Amir Ohana unleashed a verbal attack on the state prosecution

Justice Minister Amir Ohana at the Knesset.
Emil Salman

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan on Tuesday blasted Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s verbal attack on the state prosecution over the Netanyahu cases, saying they “reject the attempt to cast aspersions on the work of anyone in the police or the prosecution without any factual foundation.”

They added, “No one will deter us from faithfully carrying out our duties. No one will turn us away from the straight path.”

They were responding to remarks Ohana delivered earlier in the day at a press conference he convened at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, where he savaged the attorney general, the state prosecutor and the State Prosecutor’s Office.

Ohana referred to the criminal cases pending against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said there was a “prosecutor’s office within the State Prosecutor’s Office” that destroys the careers of politicians and other public figures. He quoted President Reuven Rivlin from his period as speaker of the Knesset, when he wrote: “A chorus of coopted court journalists and commentators always comes to the defense of the State Prosecutor’s Office and portrays the amazement as denial of the rule of law. Political and public careers have been destroyed one after another, while the public — which is not privy to the facts — is convinced that the stables are being cleaned out. Almost no one dared uncover the dangerous symbiosis between figures in the police major crimes unit, the State Prosecutor’s Office and the media.” Rivlin wrote this in an opinion piece published in Haaretz in 2004, after he was questioned on suspicion of involvement in the so-called Greek Island affair.

Ohana appealed to the attorney general to probe leaks from the police of material from their investigations of Netanyahu. “There wasn’t one leak, there were dozens and possibly hundreds to media outlets over a period of some three years,” the justice minister said. “How can we accept a situation in which senior officials in the judicial establishment, who are obligated to uphold standards, who preach at the gate against corruption, see and hear about institutional corruption on such a scale and say, there’s nothing to be done. The answer is that we cannot.”

In a written response, Mendelblit and Nitzan said: “The law enforcement establishment will not be dragged into the political arena, just as it has not in the past. The independence of the state prosecution is a fundamental principle of democracy. The law enforcement establishment operated, operates and will continue to operate without fear, in a businesslike and professional manner and solely in behalf of the rule of law and the public interest.”

Over the past several days senior Likud party officials have been questioned by police on suspicion of having sent a sound truck to the home of Shlomo Filber, a former top Netanyahu adviser who turned state’s evidence against him in the Bezeq-Walla bribery case, to harass him. The Likud figures include Netanyahu spokesman Jonatan Urich and media adviser Ofer Golan. The sound truck messages called on Filber to “come out and tell the truth,” and asked, “What did they do to you to make you lie against the prime minister, what did they promise you?”