Threats Against Israel's Attorney General Are Worrying, but So Are His Friends

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Avichai Mendelblit (right) and Efi Nave at a conference in Tel Aviv, September 4, 2018.
Avichai Mendelblit (right) and Efi Nave at a conference in Tel Aviv, September 4, 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

As soon as the embarrassing conversation between former Israel Bar Association head Efi Nave and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit was broadcast, it was tied to the Netanyahu line of defense. In the conversation Mendelblit complains about State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who refused to change the reason for closing the case against him to “absence of guilt” – which he isn’t authorized to do.

Nave is charged with trying to smuggle his lover through the Ben-Gurion Airport gates and is waiting for a hearing in the case about his relations with judge Etti Kreif. His attorney, Boaz Ben Zur, recently joined Netanyahu’s defense team and the latter was likely not too saddened by the conversation’s airing.

But the significance of this conversation – which nobody doubts will be followed by more juicy tidbits from Nave’s cell phone that could “besmirch” Mendelblit and others – is bigger than the cases against Netanyahu.

Nave was once a very powerful figure who wielded great influence in key issues for a democracy, mainly the appointment of judges in Israel. He also maintained close ties with politicians, first and foremost with former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, judges, lawyers and others. He also had journalist friends.

Only two dared to publish investigative reports on various affairs he was involved in – Sharon Shpurer and Gur Megiddo – and he slapped them with lawsuits.

Exposés published against Nave dealt in part with an incident involving Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron, whom Nave acted to appoint and whose appointment he had supported together with another senior lawyer. Elron was the justice who ruled on cases involving that senior lawyer, without revealing his ties with him.

Also, Nave acted to canvas Habayit Hayehudi supporters for Ayelet Shaked from the offices of a large law firm. The move apparently included an attempt to pay collectively for those who registered for the party.

The “heavier” suspicions against Nave are that he acted resolutely, as Bar Association chairman, to appoint Kreif a judge while he was having sexual relations with her.

Blaming all this bad stuff on Nave, especially after his fall from power, is unworthy and sanctimonious. It’s tempting because if Nave is the only villain here, then the moment he was ousted, all the system’s sins were cleansed. How convenient, and how incorrect.

The fundamental questions that should be asked are how a man like Nave reached such a station, in which he accumulated so much power that the attorney general discussed his personal affairs and talked about Shai Nitzan, his subordinate, with him? Who knows what else he or those close to him said in those conversations, using the same poor judgment. How come all those senior officials, who are afraid for their fate today, didn’t think then, in real time, that something was wrong with that dialogue, that something was wrong with what they were doing? Nave, after all, isn’t talking to himself there. Every conversation – like tango – takes two.

Coalition whip Miki Zohar threatened Mendelblit on Wednesday that unless he resigns and revokes the indictments against Netanyahu, more recordings against him will come to light. What recordings was he talking about? Are they more serious than calling Shai Nitzan a “maniac?” It’s hard to know, because like in a crime culture, these materials are carefully kept for the day of judgment.

But perhaps we can get some lead from tweets like Globes journalist Avishai Greenzweig’s on Thursday: “Efi Nave is in fact warning the state prosecution and justice system on the eve of his hearing: So far I’ve kept quiet. But if charges are to be brought against me, the gates of hell will open under your feet.”

Have we become Sodom and Gomorrah? It seems there’s no mistaking the answer. This is the Jewish state in all its glory. This is how it is run.

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