Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started to have close working relations when Mandelblit fought the Goldstone Report during his tenure as IDF Military Advocate General from 2004-2011.
Netanyahu was so impressed with Mandelblit as an operator that he lured him into becoming his cabinet secretary from 2013-2016 and away from Mandelblit’s likely appointment as simply a district court judge.
Mandelblit was so successful as cabinet secretary that Netanyahu backed him, along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, to become attorney-general in 2016.
So Netanyahu literally put his accuser in office.
In fact, the two were considered close enough that some of the judicial selection committee members voted against Mandelblit’s candidacy, viewing him as too close and potentially conflicted if Netanyahu got into legal troubles.
From there, we move to the probes against Netanyahu’s family.
From June to July 2015, Mandelblit’s predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, ordered a criminal probe into Sara Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Residence Affair, but exempted the prime minister himself.
A year later, in July 2016, was the first time that Mandelblit started on a path of conflict with Netanyahu, opening an initial review of the prime minister in an unspecified case.
The initial review was designed to soft pedal the case and save Netanyahu from unnecessary embarrassment.
For the next several months, Mandelblit was criticized on the Left for protecting Netanyahu from a criminal probe.
Finally, in January 2017, Mandelblit approved the police questioning Netanyahu in Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair.
Around the same time, the story of Case 2000, the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair broke.
Despite the police being convinced that Case 2000 was a slam dunk bribery case, Mandelblit again slow-pedaled the case, viewing it as much weaker.
THAT JULY, the state comptroller revealed that Netanyahu had not revealed to Mandelblit all of his conflicts with Shaul Elovitch of Bezeq.
Then in September, Mandelblit finally crossed the Rubicon, filing an indictment against Sara Netanyahu – though critics on the Left focused on his shielding of her by closing six out of seven probes and putting off the decision for around two years.
In February 2018, the police recommended indicting the prime minister for bribery in both cases 1000 and 2000.
Mandelblit might have rejected their recommendations, but later that month, his former top aides Shlomo Filber and Nir Hefetz turned into state witnesses. Suddenly, the prime minister became the main suspect in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla! Affair – which until then had focused on Filber.
Then in June, The Jerusalem Post reported that Case 4000 was not only the lead case, but that Mandelblit would indict Netanyahu for the grave charge of bribery. The report also indicated that evidence from Case 4000 had moved Mandelblit toward indicting Netanyahu for a breach of trust in Case 1000.
In December, the police recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery in case 4000 and a few weeks later, the prosecution announced that decisions in all of the cases would be forthcoming within only a few months.
Shortly after that announcement, Netanyahu announced early elections.
Netanyahu has been fighting a public relations and legal war against Mandelblit, announcing his intent to indict just now.
The attorney-general is known to admire Netanyahu as a statesman and comes from a right-wing political background.
Paradoxically, his ascension to the post of attorney-general, and likely ascension to the High Court of Justice, will have been paved by the man who he is probably about to topple.
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