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Pressure Points Build in Bibi Probe

Eliezer Shulman

Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit holds Netanyahu’s political fate in his hands

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

 Mishpacha image

RESTLESS Demonstrators don’t give Israel’s attorney general a day’s rest, often forcing him to spend Shabbos elsewhere

F or the past eight months, protesters have gathered regularly outside the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, urging him to indict Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Mandelblit, an Orthodox Jew, has been so bothered by the protests that he’s been spending Shabbos away from his Petach Tikvah home.

But apart from his personal inconvenience, Mandelblit carries a weighty responsibility.

The protesters are mostly leftists who have decided that Netanyahu is guilty of any number of charges swirling around him, including accepting illegal gifts and making a deal with an Israeli publisher to ensure favorable coverage. Just this week, the new Labor leader, Avi Gabbay, joined the demonstrations.

Now Mandelblit must decide if the evidence that police have presented him is enough to indict a sitting prime minister. If he does, it will likely topple the government.

“The decision to file an indictment against the prime minister means dismantling the government and going to elections,” a senior source at the state prosecutor’s office told Mishpacha this week. “Mandelblit understands the significance of these things, and that is why he demands proof from the police that whatever is presented before a court, the conviction will be certain.”

Avichai Mandelblit: “The only consideration that guides me and the rest of us doing our work is to arrive at the truth. No external pressure will divert us from this consideration”

According to the source, Mandelblit wants iron-clad proof of the prime minister’s guilt, especially since previous efforts to indict Israeli politicians have been thrown out by the courts because of a lack of evidence. “That will not happen under his watch,” the source said. “He sees that as an injustice to the prosecutors and the defendants.”

The source added that an ongoing investigation does not necessarily indicate wrongdoing, and Mandelblit himself said this past week that the public and media should not jump to conclusions.

Netanyahu suffered two more blows last week. His personal attorney, David Shimron, was questioned in connection with bribery allegations over an IDF purchase of German submarines from a company that has been accused of bribery in many different countries. And the state comptroller criticized Netanyahu for his close association with a government official charged with providing confidential government documents to Bezeq that might have given the telecommunications firm an unfair competitive advantage.

While Netanyahu is not a suspect in either of those cases, the mainstream, leftist media has been more than happy to level guilt-by-association charges against him.

If Mandelblit himself has a political inclination, he hasn’t made it clear to colleagues. Some lawyers who have worked with him insist that he is a leftist. Others believe his views are close to the Likud.

Some of his past efforts point to the former point of view. During his tenure as the chief military prosecutor, attorneys general were granted entry for the first time to the operations rooms of brigade and division commanders so the lawyers could advise the commanders on how much force to use in a given military operation in real time. However, others would say Mandelblit is apolitical on legal matters and devised a calculated approach to quiet international leftist groups, and keep prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague from filing charges against IDF officers.

Mandelblit was also the first chief military prosecutor to order an investigation for every death of a Palestinian civilian. The left welcomed this, while the right condemned the move. This policy was implemented for the first time after Operation Cast Lead. Some 400 combat soldiers were interrogated, 50 investigations were opened, and a handful of indictments were filed because of Mandelblit’s order. However, once again, Mandelblit defenders say this was a necessary tactic to deflect criticism from a United Nations investigative panel, headed by Richard Goldstone, which was preparing a very negative report on Israel. In fact, Mandelblit’s decision was one of the few positives that the UN was able to highlight in its final report.

“I can say that he is balanced and he has a broad viewpoint and lots of honesty,” says one lawyer who has worked with the attorney general. “He hears everyone, but the minute he reaches a decision, no chief of general staff or prime minister will be able to dissuade him. It makes no difference what expectations that prime minister has of him and what he will try to dictate to him.”

Meanwhile, the residents of Mandelblit’s Kfar Ganim neighborhood have warned that they will take legal action if the government does not distance the protesters from the attorney general’s home.

Mandelblit defended the right of the protesters to gather, but also made clear that external pressure will not sway him.

“The right to demonstrate is one of the fundamentals of freedom of expression, and as such, it retains a preferred status in the democratic society of the State of Israel. At the same time, the law enforcement system is entirely independent and the only consideration that guides me and the rest of us doing our work is to arrive at the truth. No external pressure will divert us from this consideration.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 669)

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