Netanyahu's 'Rigged Charges' Claims Won't Convince Knesset Committee, Israel's Attorney General Says

Prime minister, charged in three corruption cases, is basing his request for immunity from prosecution on argument that his indictment was filed in bad faith

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Benjamin Netanyahu after signing a deal with Greece and Cyprus in Athens, January 2, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu after signing a deal with Greece and Cyprus in Athens, January 2, 2020.Credit: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said on Sunday that he found it “hard to believe” that a Knesset committee would find grounds for substantiating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that his indictment was filed in bad faith. Mendelblit was referring to the reasons Netanyahu gave in his request for immunity from standing trial.

At a conference at Haifa University, Mendelblit was asked if it was legitimate for the prime minister to use terms such as “putsch” and “rigged cases.” He replied that in Netanyahu’s pretrial hearing there were no claims that charges against him had been “rigged.”

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“After it was decided to file an indictment, these accusations have surfaced. It’s regrettable, there are no grounds for making these claims,” Mendelblit said. He added that he had no intention of clashing with Netanyahu on this issue, and that there was an appropriate forum for clarifying this matter.

“This will be examined in the manner prescribed by the law, and I don’t think it’s right or possible to make these claims when they have no basis,” he said.

The attorney general continued, “I don’t think that the state prosecution or the institution of the attorney general are perfect, and criticism is legitimate, as are arguments against these institutions. When good, significant arguments were made at the hearing, we made the appropriate decisions.”

Mendelblit also addressed criticism of police searches of cellphones belonging to the prime minister’s advisers. “Every criticism is an opportunity to learn and improve. The end doesn’t justify the means. I’m bothered by some of the arguments and we’ll try to learn what was done. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and say everything is all right when it’s not.”

Mendelblit published the indictment against Netanyahu in November. The prime minister is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the Bezeq-Walla case, in which he is charged with trading regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage. He is charged with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases, in which he allegedly traded favors for positive media coverage, and accepted lavish gifts in exchange for favors. The indictment states that “Netanyahu gave preferential treatment and placed himself in a conflict of interest between his public and private interests.”

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