The threats by Knesset coalition whip Miki Zohar against Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit Wednesday must not be ignored. They must not be accepted as just another expression of Israel’s out-of-control public debate. The prosecution should order an investigation in order to determine whether Zohar should be charged with extortion.
Zohar gave an interview to Radio 103 FM Wednesday, after Channel 12 News broadcast recordings of conversations between Mendelblit and then-Israel Bar Association president Efi Nave around five years ago. In the recordings, Mendelblit is heard saying that then State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan deliberately did not clear Mendelblit of wrongdoing in the investigation of his conduct in the so-called Harpaz affair. Zohar said that if Mendelblit did not resign and drop the three indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, incriminating recordings of the attorney general will be leaked to the public.
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“It’s only a small portion that has been disclosed, and I promise you that other things will be revealed shortly,” Zohar said during the radio interview. “There will be an earthquake here. Avichai Mendelblit will have no alternative but to step down from his position and cancel the indictments against Netanyahu.”
Later Wednesday, Zohar made an effort to tone down the gravity of his actions. Asked whether he was making a threat, Zohar replied: “No, it’s a promise.” Afterward he issued a clarification designed to put some distance between himself and Netanyahu (I didn’t consult him) and avoid a criminal investigation (I didn’t mean it). But with his promise to release materials if Mendelblit did not resign, Zohar both issued a threat and meant it. The rapidity with which the prime minister distanced himself from Zohar is the best evidence of the whiff of criminality wafting from Zohar’s remarks, which must be investigated. It also attests to Netanyahu’s willingness to sacrifice members of his inner circle in his efforts to escape justice.
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“The remarks by MK Miki Zohar were made without the prime minister’s knowledge and he does not agree with them,” said a dissembling statement issued by Netanyahu’s office. “The prime minister did not discuss the matter with MK Zohar. The prime minister objects to the remarks and does not accept them,” the statement added. As if he has not been running Zohar and the rest of the Netanyahu gang for a long time now.
In a response, Mendelblit said he would not be deterred from performing his duties by “various threats” about the “exposure of materials.” Nevertheless, Deputy State Prosecutor Nurit Litman must order an immediate investigation. The Netanyahu gang must not be permitted to hold an entire country hostage and terrorize the public, its emissaries or its civil servants. This is additional and particularly disturbing evidence of the insanity to which the state, which is ruled by a criminal defendant, is being subjected.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.