A straight line connects the video posted Saturday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he claims that a decision to file an indictment against him would constitute a capitulation by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to the left and to journalists, and his baseless attack on the interview Mendelblit gave to Israel Television News. Netanyahu has decided to challenge Mendelblit’s credibility and to delegitimize him with slander, to try to undermine the public’s confidence in his decision should he decide to prosecute Netanyahu.
“The choice to cooperate with such a program, at such a time, is unprecedented in Israeli legal history and raises serious questions,” Netanyahu said. But this is a calculated manipulation. He is aiming to raise questions among the public about the attorney general, when it isn’t Mendelblit’s comments that are questionable, but rather Netanyahu himself who raises the questions.
Netanyahu’s strategy is blatantly transparent. He is trying to paint the attorney general’s decision in political colors and raise doubts about his professionalism. If the attorney general decides to prosecute the prime minister, Netanyahu wants the public to suspect that he surrendered to the left and the media. Netanyahu wants the public to refuse to accept Mendelblit’s decision. He is trying to incite the public against Mendelblit, the left and the media, so that on judgment day they will come out in droves in his defense. When coalition whip David Amsalem said earlier this month that “If Netanyahu is charged, millions won’t accept it,” that’s what he meant. It wasn’t a prediction, it was a plan.
The public is quite familiar with Netanyahu’s modus operandi. He is doing to Mendelblit what he did to Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich. He is doing to the institutions of the attorney general and the prosecution what he had previously done to the Israel Police. Netanyahu and his minions have dreamed up the scenario that a regime-change plot is being waged against him and they’ve been repeating this allegation for years. According to their imagined conspiracy theory, the left, the media, the legal system, the police and the attorney general are all working together to undermine him, make up stories about him and lay false claims against him.
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The Israeli public is in an impossible situation. It knows that Netanyahu decided to move up the election so they’d take place before the attorney general’s decision on his cases. Mendelblit did well to make it clear to the public that he is not afraid of anyone, not even the prime minister; and that he remembers what Netanyahu wants the public to forget: “I really believe that in a democratic state the rule of law is the same for every person, from the ordinary citizen to the prime minister. That’s how it’s been and that’s how it must continue to be.”
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.