New Attorney General Says Nothing Stopping Him From Probing Netanyahu

Former cabinet secretary Avichai Mendelblit sees no conflict of interests.

Incoming Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit with his predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, in the official ceremony in Jerusalem, February 1, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

New Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit says nothing prevents him from dealing with cases involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though he served as Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary until beginning his new job Tuesday.

Upon taking office, Mendelblit immediately published the agreement he has signed on avoiding conflicts of interest stemming from his previous jobs. But the agreement includes no restrictions on dealing with cases involving Netanyahu.

This is significant, because several such cases are on his desk. One, in which Netanyahu’s wife Sara has been questioned under caution, involves spending irregularities at the prime minister’s residences. Another involves allegations that businessmen improperly paid for Netanyahu’s trips abroad when he served as finance minister in 2003-05.

The potential conflict of interest these cases would pose for Mendelblit was discussed by the search committee for a new attorney general, but four of its five members nevertheless recommended him for the job. The issue was also raised in a petition to the High Court of Justice, which rejected the petition unanimously but has not yet published its reasons.

The agreement does bar Mendeblit from dealing with cases involving the Lod municipality, where his brother-in-law is deputy mayor. It also bars him from dealing with any issue relating to decisions he made as military advocate general, the position he held before becoming cabinet secretary.

The agreement details Mendelblit’s activities over the years, including stints as an external lecturer at Ono Academic College’s law school and as a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. It also says he has no source of income other than his civil service job and owns no corporate stock.