A-G says rule of law, public interest comes first in deciding PM’s fate

Avichai Mandelblit emphasized how he sees his role in a speech at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and  Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/HAARETZ/MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit

Likely only days away from a decision about the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit stridently emphasized guarding the rule of law and the public interest as his guiding forces.

While Mandelblit – in a speech at the Israel Democracy Institute honoring scholar Yedidya Stern on Tuesday – did not mention Netanyahu and the Likud, his implied references to needing to stand up to political pressure were unmistakable.

After facing pressure for years to indict Netanyahu from some on the Left, recent months have seen Netanyahu and the Likud rain down unprecedented pressure on the attorney-general not to indict the prime minister.

The examples that he chose to illustrate standing up to the political echelon were significant in and of themselves.

He noted his office’s opposition to the Settlements Regulations Law and refusal to defend the law from a petition before the High Court of Justice to strike it down.

In addition, Mandelblit mentioned the recent controversy in which his office asked the High Court to deny Space, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis the right to contradict his opinion that Akunis had tried to illegally politicize an appointments process.

The attorney-general said that the High Court’s decision could have far ranging consequences about whether government ministers can contradict his position before the High Court – a growing trend, which he called disturbing.

All of this comes against the backdrop where many on the Left view Mandelblit as bending over backwards to try to fit extreme anti-rule-of-law policies by the government into a legal framework.

As such, Mandelblit’s critics on the Left view any government policies he declares illegal as deeply breaching previous norms, since otherwise he would try to find a way to defend the policies.

Speaking after unprecedented attacks on him by the prime minister and the Likud, he appeared much more resigned to an extended period of conflict with the political class.

In contrast, his inaugural speech in 2016 had set a goal of trying to cater to the political class more than his predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein.

Earlier at the same conference at IDI, former chief justice Aharon Barak said that the rule of law was “in dire need” of defenders.

He warned that without society and public officials defending the legal establishment from attacks, “their continued ability to be independent is not self-evident.” He also cautioned in dark terms of very powerful forces which had mobilized against the guardians of the rule of law.