Netanyahu to Court: Bid to Remove AG From Criminal Probe Against Me Is 'Propaganda'

In official response, the prime minister asks: 'How can the petitioner submit a petition that is entirely based on an assumption?'

In an official response to a petition made to the High Court of Justice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the demand to block Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit from involvement in criminal investigations of the prime minister “propaganda.” The petition was filed by political activist Eldad Yaniv.

“This petition is nothing but the direct continuation of the unrestrained attack, a real propaganda campaign, that the petitioner has waged for a number of months against Benjamin Netanyahu, the incumbent prime minister, out of alien and unacceptable interests on which we shall expand below,” begins the response.

Yossi Cohen, a lawyer for Netanyahu, wrote in the response that the purpose of the petition was “to apply forbidden, continuous pressure, not in good faith, on the attorney general while portraying him as biased, a coward and hesitant, out of alien interests.”

Netanyahu argued in his response that the petition was in effect an attempt to reopen a previous petition, rejected by the court, dealing with Mendelblit’s move from the position of cabinet secretary to that of attorney general.

The prime minister addressed Yaniv’s claim that when he was cabinet secretary, Mendelblit must have been involved in the so-called "Israel Hayom bill," which is the focus of a criminal investigation into Netanyahu’s relationship with newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes.

“How can the petitioner submit a petition that is entirely based on an assumption, or more correctly a ‘half assumption,’ that argues in loose and fuzzy language that Mendelblit was ‘actively and intensively’ involved in ‘a discussion held by government figures’ of this bill? And how can the petitioner ignore the court’s ruling according to which the position of cabinet secretary is mostly professional, technical and administrative and does not involve decisions taken by the government?” the response stated.

The latest petition was filed around 10 days ago by lawyers Yuval Yoaz and Doron Bareket on behalf of Yaniv.

Around a month ago, Mendelblit said in response to a Haaretz query that while he held the position of cabinet secretary, he had no knowledge of negotiations between Netanyahu and Mozes, publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth. Mendelblit noted that during his tenure, which ended in February 2016, he dealt “only with professional issues related to the workings of the government, as well as with professional tasks given to him by the government.”

Asked whether he was aware of the meetings between Netanyahu and Mozes, Mendelblit stated in his response that he first learned about them after becoming attorney general, as part of his duties as the head of the law enforcement system.

“I sometimes hear various voices calling on me not to deal with cases connected to the prime minister, and my response to these calls is that the decision is not in my hands,” the attorney general said about three weeks ago, adding, “It is my duty, and if I do not fulfill it, then I would not be faithfully discharging my duties.”