Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s efforts to make the corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu go away have entered a new phase: preparing public opinion for the cases to be closed with no indictments. This week, “sources close to” Mendelblit told Amit Segal, a reporter for Israel Television News, that the attorney general is hesitating because if a case goes to court and Netanyahu is acquitted, “this would destroy the Israeli legal system.”
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These “sources” even quoted the late Amnon Dankner, a close friend of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said the state prosecutor ought to “commit hara-kiri” after Olmert’s acquittal by a Jerusalem court. They voiced fears that if Netanyahu is acquitted, “they’ll demand that Mendelblit commit hara-kiri, not the police commissioner.”
It seems as if Mendelblit, who heads the state prosecution, has joined the prime minister’s defense team. The “sources close to him” appear to have adopted the talking points used by Netanyahu and his supporters, who accuse the police commissioner, Roni Alsheich, of being overly enthusiastic and engaging in political persecution in order “to appease the media,” which ostensibly wants to replace Netanyahu’s government.
The latest statements about the weakness of the case and the likelihood of an acquittal in the event that it went to trial come on top of the attorney general’s serious foot-dragging in the Netanyahu cases from the very beginning. Mendelblit refused to allow the prime minister and his wife to be questioned simultaneously in the case involving illicit benefits from businessmen (Case 1000); he sat for a long time on audio recordings of conversations between the prime minister and the publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth and hesitated over investigating Netanyahu in this case of suspected journalistic bribery (Case 2000); he announced that the prime minister “isn’t a suspect” in the submarine graft case and refused even to summon Netanyahu to swear out a statement (Case 3000); and he kept the prime minster out of the loop of suspects in the Bezeq case (Case 4000).
Mendelblit is right to warn that the rule of law is in danger, but what threatens it isn’t the possibility of an indictment against the prime minister, but rather his own lack of backing for law enforcement officials. Instead of making it clear to Netanyahu that he would be investigated just like anyone else suspected of serious corruption, the attorney general has sought for any possible way to go easy on the suspect and make life difficult for his investigators, while undermining the principle of equality before the law and the work of justice. His latest statements raise deep concern for the future of “the Israeli legal system.”
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.