Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Avichai Mandelblit.
(photo credit: ABIR SULTAN/POOL/VIA REUTERS)
The election will not delay the decision regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public corruption cases, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told Hadashot News in a rare on-the-record interview aired Saturday night.
As he walked into his Tel Aviv office, he was asked what happened after he heard that an election was being called for April 9.
Mandelblit responded: “Nothing. I need to do my work as fast as possible, but without compromising professional values.”
Though Mandelblit has not committed on the record to announcing his decision before Election Day, that answer and others made off the record have made it clear that is his intent.
This seems particularly true since several months ago he explicitly rejected the need to decide before Election Day, and that denial has been dropped from all prosecution statements.
The attorney-general refused to respond to any questions about Netanyahu and the pressure on him to avoid making a decision regarding the case before the election.
But according to a report, Mandelblit told those close to him: “I knew I would be attacked... The prime minister is dragging the whole state down” with him.
Echoing some of the same themes, but striking a more even keel, on-the-record Mandelblit told Channel 12, “I am not surprised by the attacks... What does it matter? I am a professional and that’s it,” adding that the attacks “cannot impact me.”
“I did not invent the attorney-general’s office... I am here to guard it... That is more important than anything,” Mandelblit said.
Regarding attacks on Mandelblit, a video was put out Saturday night implying that he may seek to indict the prime minister simply because the political Left and media have harassed him into giving in to their desire to evict Netanyahu from office at all costs.
Mandelblit again refused to respond to specific attacks, but rejected the idea he could be influenced by any side.
Besides the rare interview with Mandelblit, the Channel 12 report made some new disclosures regarding how the public corruption cases against Netanyahu developed.
The report said Mandelblit almost fell out of his chair when he first heard the recordings of conversations between Netanyahu and Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon (Noni) Mozes, which eventually became the launching point for Case 2000.
Though Mandelblit was attacked for moving slowly on making Case 2000 public, the report said the attorney-general’s caution resulted in a surprise attack on the prime minister when he was questioned by police.
Because the Case 2000 suspicions were kept under wraps for an extended period, Netanyahu came to an interrogation expecting questions only about Case 1000 and was caught completely off-guard by the recording and questions about Case 2000.
Another new disclosure in the report was that Arnon Milchin claimed that Netanyahu ordered the IDF to provide him with a military helicopter transport to Jordan for various business dealings, presumably in exchange for the expensive gifts that Milchin bought for the prime minister and which are the bedrock of Case 1000.
A spokesman for Netanyahu said: “The helicopter was available to Ratan Tata, one of the world’s largest industrialists, for use to advance international joint projects between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.”
“Milchin accompanied Tata based on their being previously acquainted. The prime minister did not know [about Milchin’s connection to the project]," said the spokesman.
A source explained to The Jerusalem Post that the project was part of the peace agreements between the three parties and that it was possible that Tata, a Turkish citizen, was given use of an IDF helicopter in an attempt to promote the project.
The statement from Netanyahu’s spokesman attacked the idea of bringing a prime minister to trial based on trivialities like cigars he received from a friend, arguing that the police had not probed the NIS 1.2 million in gifts that former prime minister Ehud Olmert received.
Furthermore, the spokesman complained that there continue to be leaks to the media about evidence against Netanyahu when the prime minister’s defense lawyers themselves still had not received the evidence.
Lastly, the spokesman argued that there was not attempt to attack Mandelblit. Instead, the prime minister is merely voicing legitimate criticism regarding biases against him and against the “unprecedented” idea of the attorney-general announcing an intent to indict a prime minister prior to an impending election.