Netanyahu Rival Bennett Comes to His Defense: Attorney General Can't Topple Israeli Government

'He doesn't have the power to change the government,' education minister says of attorney general who is expected to announce decision on premier's corruption cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at a cabinet meeting.
Marc Israel Sellem

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday criticized the power the country's attorney general wields over the government, suggesting that he could topple it by making a decision about the corruption cases Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is embroiled in

"It is not right for a man, as honorable as he may be, which is [Avichai] Mendelblit, to change the government here in Israel," the chairman of the newly-formed Hayamin Hehadash said in an interview with journalist Dana Weiss during a Tel Aviv conference of the Institute for National Security Studies. 

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Mendelblit is expected to announce whether he has decided to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery or not, a decision whose timing has become crucial now that Israel is headed for an early election. 

"He doesn't have the power to change the government, he has the power to file or not to file an indictment. At the end of the day, it's up to the political ranks whether to change the government based on a recommendation of a single person. You don't know who is for it and who is against it," Bennett told Weiss. 

The education minister, who is perceived as a rival of the prime minister despite the fact that recent polls predict his party will not be able to surpass Likud in the election, also referred to different cases in which Israeli politicians were interrogated but had eventually not been indicted. 

"A lot of indictments against officials in the State of Israel add up to nothing," he noted and added: "With all due respect, the essence of the democracy is for millions to go out to vote."

Last week, the Israel Television News Company reported that Netanyahu planned to smear Bennett through a series of articles against the premier and his family on the Walla news website on the eve of the election in 2013. When asked in the conference how this affected his relations with the prime minister, Bennett said: "Maybe one day I will write about this in a book."