Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday that she knew in real time about a meeting, arranged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s confidant Nir Hefetz, between journalist Dan Margalit and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mendelblit.
At the time, Mendelblit was a candidate for the post of attorney general – the position in which he currently serves. “There was nothing wrong with that meeting,” Shaked clarified. “Both Mendelblit and Margalit told me about it while it was taking place.”
Margalit, then a senior columnist for the free, right-wing daily Israel Hayom, was a major critic of Mendelblit and asked him a question during the meeting to examine his suitability for the post – namely, whether he would be able to put Netanyahu on trial.
Shaked said on Sunday that at the time many journalists had reservations about Mendelblit’s suitability for the post of attorney general due to his proximity to Netanyahu when he served as cabinet secretary. For that reason, the meeting was legitimate and important, she said, adding that she and Netanyahu supported choosing Mendelblit for the post since he is “straight as a ruler.”
Shaked referred to suspicions that Hefetz – the Netanyahu family’s media advisor – proposed to Judge Hila Gerstl that she would be appointed attorney general if she agreed to drop a case against Sara Netanyahu, saying: “There is no need to clarify whether Mendelblit received a similar offer. There is no reason to believe the same offers were made to everyone. Mendelblit and Gerstl are honest people and I trust both of them.”
Last week Mendelblit said that his acquaintance with Hefetz was superficial and that the meeting that took place in August 2015 with Margalit was no reason to recuse himself from cases involving Netanyahu. In responding to a query by Haaretz, Mendelblit said that while Hefetz had initiated the meeting with Margalit, he himself did not take part in it, and that its focus was another issue – the Harpaz affair, a 2011 scandal involving the selection of the military’s next chief of staff.
When news of the offer to Gerstl broke last week, Mendelblit clarified that he had not received such an offer himself. His office clarified that he had no personal relations with Hefetz and had not been offered any bribes.