Israel's Justice Minister Enlists pro-Netanyahu Comptroller to Lay Into Attorney General

But sources say State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman is not inclined to address most of the topics Amir Ohana has raised

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at an event in 2019.
Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at an event in 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Justice Minister Amir Ohana has asked the state comptroller to launch an inquiry into the state prosecution and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit because of what he described as the undermining of the public’s trust in them.

During a meeting Sunday, Ohana presented State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman with a number of issues, including Mendelblit’s role in the so-called Harpaz affair nearly decade ago, which involved the choosing of the next military chief. Another issue was leaks to the media that Ohana said came from the Justice Ministry.

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Sources say Englman is not inclined to address most of the topics Ohana raised at the meeting. Englman does not believe there is any need to reopen the Harpaz case, because his predecessors looked into it and a thorough report was published, the sources say.

Englman was not presented with any new information in the case; staff members had already heard the recordings from the office of former military chief Gabi Ashkenazi, now a Kahol Lavan legislator. This includes conversations nearly a decade ago with Mendelblit, chief military advocate general at the time.

One of those conversations, banned from publication by the Supreme Court, was referred to by Channel 13 journalist Ayala Hasson over the weekend.

Mendelblit has played a role in the corruption indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose trial is due to start this month.

Regarding Ohana’s complaints against the prosecution, Englman believes the issue of public confidence is too broad a topic and not within his purview.

The comptroller’s office now has a staff dedicated to auditing the prosecution; these officials last week issued a report on the prosecution’s asset-seizure policy and are working on other reports. Englman believes this is a sufficient response to the minister’s request to monitor the prosecution.

In 2010, then-State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss opened an investigation into the Harpaz affair, a scheme based on a forged document written by an Ashkenazi associate, Boaz Harpaz. The document apparently aimed to scuttle the appointment of Yoav Gallant, whom Ashkenazi reportedly despised, to succeed Ashkenazi as military chief of staff.

Two years later, Lindenstrauss’ successor, Joseph Shapira, released a scathing report on the case and recommended that then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein launch a criminal probe into people including Mendelblit.

Mendelblit allegedly took his time crafting the proper legal recommendation to Ashkenazi; for example, that he immediately hand over the incriminating document to police investigators. Critics say Mendelblit thus acted more like the personal attorney of the chief of staff and less like the person responsible for enforcing the law in the military.

But despite Shapira’s recommendation, in 2013 Netanyahu appointed Mendelblit cabinet secretary. The following year, Mendelblit was questioned four times and the police recommended that he be prosecuted for obstruction of justice and breach of trust.

But Weinstein, who heard all the recordings from Ashkenazi’s office, closed the case against Mendelblit.

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