Likud coalition chairman threatens A-G to cancel Netanyahu indictments

"If Mandelblit does not resign and dismiss the indictments we will reveal more things."

Likud parliament member Miki Zohar reacts during an arrangements committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 13, 2020. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Likud parliament member Miki Zohar reacts during an arrangements committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 13, 2020.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Coalition chairman Miki Zohar threatened on Wednesday that more audio recordings of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s conversations will be released if he does not resign and immediately dismiss the indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Everything has already been clarified, and I tell you that it’s just a small part. If Mandelblit does not resign and dismiss the indictments, we will reveal more,” Zohar told 103FM Radio.
Asked if he was threatening Mandelblit, he said “it is not a threat, it’s a promise.”
But after Netanyahu distanced himself from the remarks of his loyalist, Zohar backed off.
“I didn’t intend to threaten the attorney-general, but I still think he should quit,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
On Tuesday, Channel 12 reported that Mandelblit complained that then-state attorney Shai Nitzan “has his hands around my throat” in private telephone calls between 2015 and 2016.
Obtained by Channel 12, Mandelblit’s cellphone recordings to then-Israel Bar Association president Efi Nave about Nitzan’s decision not to declare the basis for closing an earlier case against the attorney-general, related to what was known as the Harpaz Affair.
Although Mandelblit was only a minor protagonist in the affair – which was centered around a 2010 rivalry between then-defense minister Ehud Barak and then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi – the attorney-general, who then served as the military advocate-general, was suspected of withholding information from police for 24 hours.
“The cancellation of the indictments, the publication of a public apology by the two and the resignation of Mandelblit will not correct the terrible and unnecessary injustice done to Netanyahu and the Likud,” Zohar tweeted on Tuesday.
Netanyahu expressed disapproval of Zohar’s statements on Wednesday in a statement released by the Likud Party.
“MK Miki Zohar’s remarks were made without the prime minister’s knowledge and were not made with his advice. The prime minister did not discuss the matter with MK Zohar and he disapproves of what was said,” the statement said.
Blue and White demanded that Zohar resign, saying that he was pushing the country toward elections.
“Miki Zohar should terminate his position as chairman of the coalition. He undermines the stability of the government every day, and every day he’s in office brings us downhill to elections,” said the party in a statement. “Israel deserves more.”
Mandelblit’s office responded that he was unfazed by Zohar.
“Various threats will not deter the attorney-general from carrying out his work,” Mandelblit’s office said. “The attorney-general has acted throughout his tenure, and will continue to act, without fear and for purely material considerations, according to the evidence and the law.
“The claim that he was blackmailed or influenced in his decisions as the attorney-general of the State of Israel by such and other extraneous considerations is unfounded and ridiculous, and in any case these decisions, made after a professional and orderly procedure with the participation of many parties, now stand for a judicial test,” added the statement.
The office stressed that there is “no affinity or connection between what was said angrily in a closed conversation between friends years ago, at a time when Mandelblit felt offended by the behavior toward him, and the cases concerning the prime minister and others.”
Mandelblit will not be involved in handling complaints filed in regard to Zohar’s statements.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel called on the police commissioner to investigate Zohar for extortion.
“This is not the conduct of elected officials, and certainly not of a ruling party. It is the conduct of a gang drunk with power and an agenda that does everything in its power to protect a prime minister accused of three serious indictments, in order to retain power,” said the movement.
“If the chairman of the coalition collects so-called incriminating materials on the ombudsman, he should do the honor of submitting them to the police. His method of operation, which he revealed this morning live, is reminiscent of the conduct of a criminal organization.”
Meanwhile, Mandelblit on Wednesday told Daniel Hershkowitz, the head of the Civil Service Commission, that a committee could be formed to select a new state attorney in place of Nitzan, who stepped down in December. Mandelblit has filled that role in the interim.
Hershkowitz has been blocking the move because there is no Justice Ministry director-general, and he ruled that an interim director-general could not convene such a committee. But he has been accused of stalling at the behest of Netanyahu.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.