Opinion

Netanyahu and Amsalem Have Something on Mendelblit

Carolina Landsmann
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in a cabinet meeting in the Knesset, Jerusalem, November 1, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in a cabinet meeting in the Knesset, Jerusalem, November 1, 2015.Credit: Dan Balilty / AP
Carolina Landsmann

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses his Facebook page to try and make the attorney general, Avichai Mendelblit, look like he’s guilty of a crime. Netanyahu’s bidding is done by others. He only shares articles written by others and stories published in the “press.” It’s not him who’s saying it, it’s them. It’s not a bunch of stories but rather facts.

This week he shared a link to an interview in the Israel Hayom daily with Moshe Nissim, a former justice minister from Likud who was a member of the committee that nominated Mendelblit to the post. Nissim said that had the recordings connected to the Harpaz Affair had been brought before the appointments committee, Mendelblit’s appointment may never have been approved. And now let’s all conclude on our own: If we could turn back time, Mendelblit may not have been attorney general and perhaps there never would have been any cases (against Netanyahu).

On Thursday, the minister who liaises between the cabinet and the Knesset, David Amsalem, was much bolder than his master the defendant and spared us all the need to interpret the message, broadcasting it unfiltered on Army Radio. After determining that “Mendelblit is apparently a criminal,” Amsalem added that Netanyahu erred in his decision to name him attorney general in 2016 because “there is no doubt about the fact the Mendelblit disrupted the investigation.”

But the message – that Netanyahu erred by ignoring the question marks about Mendelblit or that he didn’t have a clear picture when he decided to name him – is the farce of the year. The former attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, provided Netanyahu with good enough reasons not to appoint Mendelblit at the time. It’s not that Netanyahu didn’t appoint him despite these warnings; rather, he appointed him because of them.

Mendelblit was not the first. At the outset of his career Netanyahu chose Roni Bar-On for the role because he was considered “unsuitable” (in retrospect, unjustifiably so). Netanyahu searches for personal loyalty. One of the methods – ask any mafioso – is to appoint “borderline” people who know that it would be easy to get rid of them. There were red flags surrounding Mendelblit’s appointment and Netanyahu was aware of them. And because of these flags, he insisted on naming Mendelblit – someone considered to be one of his people – to the post.

So it’s true that maybe some of the information about him wasn’t available to the committee and it’s hard to know what might have happened if it had been. But perhaps it was convenient for Netanyahu that the Mendelblit-Ashkenazi tapes not be exposed to the appointments committee so that the appointment would not be scuttled. This is how he controlled the height of the flame: He allowed the appointment to be accepted but made sure the attorney general’s robes were caught a little in the fire, or so he believed.

This borderline appointment bears the markings of the “Netanyahu system.” It fits in the with the sting he said he tried to pull on Yediot Ahronot Publisher Arnon Mozes, whom he recorded in the alleged blackmail deal for which he’s facing trial, thereby linking their fates. Like Mozes, Netanyahu knows that when you have information on people, you can draw them closer to you.

It was convenient for Netanyahu to cleanse Mendelblit and today it’s convenient for him to sully the man. Presumably, if he were to quit tomorrow, this affair would be closed (at least until it’s time to use it against Ashkenazi. All in due time). It will disappear like the Gantz telephone incident (wait, so the Iranians aren’t blackmailing him? Or now Netanyahu is?) There’s a factory where such affairs are being created and axed depending on political needs. The directors of this factory of tales live at Balfour on weekdays and in Caesarea on the weekends.

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