Israel's Attorney General Slams 'Threats, Lies and Slander' Against Law Enforcers Over Netanyahu Cases

The fact that two of the most senior prosecutors 'now have bodyguards solely because they carried out their duties is inconceivable,' Mendelblit says

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announcing the indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, November 21, 2019.
Emil Salman

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Tuesday harshly criticized the attacks against the law enforcement authorities that have followed last week’s decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

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“I hear threats, I hear lies, I hear baseless slander; it’s shocking,” Mendelblit said at a training conference for prosecutors in Eilat.

“We are an official state body, operating on its behalf and in its name and representing it in legal proceedings. Unfortunately, the statesmanlike and responsible manner in which we act and will scrupulously maintain does not always characterize other entities,” the attorney general said.

“I hear expressions that have no place in the public sphere directed at the law enforcement establishment and certain senior officials in it.”

Mendelblit added that the prosecution makes mistakes and is not immune to criticism, but “the state prosecution is one of the entities subject to the most types of oversight in Israel. Beyond the internal audits by the unit managers and the state prosecutor, there is also the oversight by the state comptroller, the ethics committee of the Israel Bar Association and the state ombudsman …. We are not afraid of criticism. But it has to be to the point, respectful and constructive.”

He added that “the state prosecution is the wall protecting Israel from crime, government corruption, human-rights violations, abuse of power and a situation of ‘there is no justice or judge.’”

After last week’s indictment announcement, Netanyahu attacked State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and said Mendelblit had capitulated to pressure from Nitzan. On Saturday, Communication Minister David Amsalem told Channel 12 News that Liat Ben Ari, a deputy state prosecutor and the lead prosecutor in the corruption cases against Netanyahu, “should sit in prison.”

The attorney general defended both assailed officials. “Shai Nitzan is a public servant in every fiber of his being,” Mendelblit said.

“He is an excellent jurist. He is an honest, decent man. Liat Ben Ari, as her last name suggests, is from a family of lions. She is a true warrior. She sees only the rule of law. The fact that Shai and Liat now have bodyguards solely because they carried out their duties is inconceivable.”

Nitzan, meanwhile, responded to remarks by Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who had criticized the prosecution for its handling of the Netanyahu cases.

“I was taken aback when I heard his public attacks on the prosecution. He said very blunt and harsh things. There’s a campaign whose sole purpose is to undermine public confidence in the prosecution," Nitzan said.

"Every day they hammer this in and then they say, ‘Look, confidence in the prosecution has dropped.’ Of course it has dropped, incredible forces are doing everything they can to undermine public confidence in the prosecution.”

Ohana, who also attended the conference, said the public’s lack of confidence had nothing to do with incitement.

“Is the criticism by public figures and yours truly what caused the problem of confidence – in other words, is the public an inflamed herd waiting obediently to a call from the politicians about how to think? Or does our criticism express [the lack of confidence]?”