Netanyahu's Reelection Is Irrelevant to Ongoing Criminal Proceedings, Attorney General Says

‘Judgment by the voters does not replace judgment of the law,’ Avichai Mendelblit asserts

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent reelection did not affect the handling of the criminal cases against him, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said on Monday.

“I will say what is clear to me: The criminal process does not overlap with the electoral process,” Mendelblit told a gathering of the State Prosecution’s Northern District in Nazareth Illit. “It is also not influenced by it. As the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a five-justice panel headed by then-Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar: ‘The judgment of the voter is not a substitute for the judgment of the law and cannot replace it.’” 

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The comments came two months after Mendelblit announced he would indict Netanyahu on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust, subject to a hearing.

Mendelblit said the decisions concerning Netanyahu’s cases are “professional and businesslike” and not biased in any way. “There is no persecution here, God forbid.” No one has fabricated any case against Netanyahu and any such claims are nonsense and meant to delegitimize the law enforcement system, he added.

The investigations against Netanyahu and the decision-making process involved are “unequivocal testimony to the supreme status of the principle of the rule of law in the Israeli legal system, at whose heart stands the requirement of equality before the law for all,” he added. “No one is above the law. This principle is priceless and is needed to prevent any damage or erosion of it.”

Mendelblit said he was sorry that the election campaign was accompanied by statements unprecedented in their severity against law enforcement institutions and the legal system.

“In general, I avoided responding or commenting on the things said during this period, and acted with restraint in order not to be seen as being involved in the political process. But it is important to make clear that this restraint does not mean acceptance or agreement in silence, God forbid, with the statements that are eating away at the legitimacy of the judicial and law enforcement systems,” he said.

Mendelblit warned that such erosion would weaken the defense of civil rights, particularly for the poor. “The legal and judicial systems of the State of Israel are magnificent and have great prestige – in the country and outside it. During the 70 years of our existence, they have protected the character of the state as Jewish and democratic. This, also at the time of the building of the [nation], and of course during the difficult periods when we had to meet security and other challenges,” said Mendelblit.

As for the appointment of a new justice minister, he said: “We will receive him with honor and act together with him to advance the government’s policies within the limits of the law.”

Mendelblit expressed hope that the government’s policies would “respect the status of the legal and judicial systems, and their essential role in preserving the state as Jewish and democratic. We, on our part, will continue to stand guard in order to protect this status.”