Netanyahu's Target: His Attorney General

Haaretz Editorial
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FILE PHOTO: Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit attend a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. November 1, 2015. (Dan Balilty/AP)
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in the crosshairs. After sailing over the hurdle of the High Court of Justice, Netanyahu’s gang is racing toward the next target in its delegitimization campaign against the legal system, which dared investigate and indict the only person Netanyahu cares about – himself – and, if it isn’t prevented, will begin his trial on May 24.

Right-wing mouthpieces are loudly demanding that Mendelblit resign, or at least suspend himself, deeming this the self-evident conclusion of an ancient blood libel whose elements are recycled from time to time to serve Netanyahu’s political needs. According to this libel, Mendelblit obstructed the investigation of the so-called Harpaz affair, which involved a forged document aimed at tilting the choice of the next military chief of staff in 2010.

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Last Friday, Ayala Hasson of Channel 13 television dredged up the Harpaz affair again by reporting quotes from conversations between Mendelblit, who was military advocate general at the time, and then-Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi – conversations that are under a gag order. The right is trying to rebrand the Harpaz affair as the “Mendelblit affair,” no less.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, whom Netanyahu appointed to lead the assault on the legal system, quickly carried out his mission: He smeared the system for which he is responsible, announced that he would meet with State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman – another person appointed by Netanyahu solely due to his unfitness for the post and to ensure that he wouldn’t do his job properly – to ask him to look into the matter, saying he would even consider setting up a state commission of inquiry. At the same time, he accused former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan of breaking the law by using his ministry email account after his retirement.

There’s no way to understand what’s happening in Israel, on every front, except through the lens of Netanyahu’s trial. There’s no red line Netanyahu would refuse to cross and no means he would consider beyond the pale to escape justice. Nobody is immune to being the target of his incitement, and no value, institution or government agency is safe from being trampled into the dust by him and his gang.

Israel has become a hostage in the hands of a defendant with no restraints. It’s hard not to be horrified that Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz chose to ignore not only his partners and many of his voters, but above all the corrupt reality Israel is wallowing in. On Wednesday, a government of “unity and national reconciliation” will be sworn in. Is this what Gantz calls unity? Is this what reconciliation looks like?

“This won’t be the government of my dreams,” Gantz said, referring primarily to the cabinet’s size, even as he sought to argue that it’s good for the country. That quote is the understatement of the year. Gantz would do better to stop dreaming. He must wake up and understand that he’s walking straight into the trap Netanyahu laid.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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