High Court Gives Attorney General 30 Days to Explain Why Netanyahu Not Being Investigated

Court order follows petition by Israeli political activist, who asked court to demand the nation's highest legal authority explain AG Mendelblitt's handling of PM's corruption case.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers remarks at the Hudson Institute's Herman Kahn Award Ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 22, 2016.
Andrew Kelly, Reuters

The High Court instructed the attorney general, the heads of the State Prosecution and Israel Police to explain within one month why they haven't opened a criminal investigation into the suspicions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The High Court's move followed a petition by political activist Eldad Yaniv, who asked the court to order Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to explain the absence of a criminal investigation on suspicions of corruption against Netanyahu, and why he has not kept the public informed about the case.

The petition, filed by attorney Yuval Yoaz, is also directed against senior police officers and officials in the State Prosecutor’s Office and Netanyahu himself.

“The attorney general is delaying and avoiding transfer of the preliminary examination onto the track of full criminal investigation,” the petition says.

“The petitioner is aware of the broad judgment granted to the attorney general in such decisions, but nonetheless, the court has been given a crucial role in the situation created, and this role is intensified in light of Mendelblit’s refusal to accept the position of most of the professional bodies handling the affair, and his determination to prevent even the existence of a criminal investigation in the matter,” it adds.

Yaniv has also asked the court to hold an urgent session on the petition. Among the respondents listed, in addition to Netanyahu and Mendelblit, are State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Jerusalem district prosecutor Nurit Litman, police Maj. Gen. Meni Yitzhaki, the head of the investigations and intelligence division, and other senior officials.

On Friday, Gidi Weitz reported in Haaretz that State Comptroller Joseph Shapira had written in Mendelblit in the past few weeks urging an investigation of suspected criminal acts allegedly involving Netanyahu. Shapira wrote the letter after receiving information that Mendelblit had decided not to order an investigation into cases involving the financing of Netanyahu’s trips abroad when he was Knesset Opposition leader. Shapira noted that his office had found criminal suspicions in a range of matters: Diverting funds, i.e. the alleged use of surplus funds from a trip to pay for personal expenses; the use of cash to pay for trips; and suspicions of intentionally deceptive documentation of funds.

Shapira also asked Mendelblit to examine the relationships, and possible quid pro quo, between Netanyahu and those who paid for his trips, both wealthy individuals and organizations.

Police were examining at least one major affair concerning Netanyahu though intelligence from another source refutes the allegations.

The present police examination centers around proving, or disproving the suspicions that the Netanyahu family received expensive gifts and other benefits from a number of wealthy individuals, who have contributed to the Netanyahu family in the past, Haaretz has learned. So far, some 30 to 40 people have been questioned by the police in various affairs that have been examined. Some witnesses have cooperated in only a very limited fashion.

Netanyahu has vehemently denied the allegations against him. The Prime Minister’s Bureau said: “It’s all nonsense. There was nothing, there will be nothing - because there is nothing.”