State Prosecutor Recuses Himself From Investigation Into Herzog

Herzog says he will cooperate with investigation, but claims timing of its publication is political, vowing that 'anyone who tries to harm me will be dealt a blow they will not forget."

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog / State prosecutor Shai Nitzan
Moti Milrod / Olivier Fitoussi

State prosecutor Shai Nitzan recused himself Thursday from the case of opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who is under police investigation, Haaretz has learned.

Nitzan has refrained from handling the case due to "familiarity with one of those involved with police," the Justice Ministry said in response to questions. But the spokesperson refused to provide further details.

At this point the episode is under investigation and it's not clear whether or when Herzog would be asked to provide his version of events. Testimony has been taken from several figures in the Herzog case. The examination has been under way since complaints of apparent criminal wrongdoing in the 2013 primaries were filed against Herzog's people.

Text messages and receipts have also been seized as potential supportive evidence. One of the leads the investigation might be following is alleged campaign funding given by a party that expected favors in return.

Herzog said Thursday he will fully cooperate with investigators and rejected claims of possible wrongdoing, saying the timing of their publication was political: "We all know why this is happening and whoever is behind this will receive such a political blowback that they will a learn a lesson for years to come.

"Every time elections or primaries near there are some in the political system that tries to knock us down and enlist the police into their campaign. I have no concerns regarding the investigation and I will cooperate.

"This is a far flung attempt to drag my name through the mud and try to deter me from running and leading the Zionist Union to steer us away from the dangerous route Netanyahu and the radical right is leading us.

"Don't let my smile fool you. I will run and I will win. Anyone who tries to harm me or us will be dealt a blow they will not forget," he said.

Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit told Herzog on Wednesday that the Justice Ministry plans to issue an official statement about a police examination of the matter, following the story exposed on Wednesday by Haaretz.

This is the first time Nitzan has recused himself from a significant public episode during his service as chief prosecutor.