Comptroller punts on Ohana invite to probe entire law enforcement system

Call came after A-G indictment of PM.

STATE COMPTROLLER Matanyahu Englman. (photo credit: Courtesy)
STATE COMPTROLLER Matanyahu Englman.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman on Sunday punted on Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s Saturday night call for him to immediately probe the entire law enforcement system in an interview with Channel 12.
A spokesman for Englman said that “the plan for oversight of the government’s offices, including those who represent the state in the courts, is due to be set in the course of the start of the year 2020, according to various considerations.”
“In any case, no formal request has been made regarding this issue,” concluded the statement.
While the statement did not formally reject Ohana’s suggestion, pushing off the issue until some vague time period in 2020 and standing on ceremony about expecting a formal request was a clear sign that Englman does not want to go to war with law enforcement the way that Ohana wishes to.
Going beyond Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vague call on Thursday night to “investigate the investigators,” Ohana on Saturday night made a concrete proposal in his capacity as the country’s justice minister that the comptroller “already tomorrow” (meaning Sunday) would investigate a variety of issues in the state prosecution and the police.
Netanyahu and Ohana’s attacks on law enforcement come following Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s Thursday decision to issue a final indictment against the prime minister for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust.
A spokesman for Mandelblit said he had not seen the interview, but that the comptroller has authority to probe any office in the country. Despite this authority, the comptroller does not have authority to criminally probe anyone and can only suggest to the attorney-general to probe someone for a crime.
In other words, even the comptroller spokesman’s statement to a possibility of probing the prosecution could at most make a recommendation to Mandelblit about the issue, but is considered junior to the attorney-general when it comes to anything relating to prosecutions.
In addition, there is already an oversight czar for the prosecution, former Judge David Rozen, who has also called for some amount of system-wide corrections regarding leaks to the media, but overall is very supportive of law enforcement.
While the two prior comptrollers were at loggerheads with Netanyahu, the current comptroller, Englman, was appointed by Netanyahu in July and has been accused of politicizing his office to take the prime minister’s side.
Another reason that Englman might avoid the issue is that he has been cutting back on his own powers and manpower for investigations – preferring instead to work on less controversial issues.
Further, Englman might prefer to see who is prime minister and justice minister in a few months before joining the fray.
In parallel to Ohana’s attack on law enforcement, the Israel Bar Association tried to strike a middle ground, backing law enforcement’s credibility, but also deploring how leaks to the media have led to attempts to get public officials convicted in the public eyes before trials even start.
In the interview with Channel 12, Ohana also said that “the system under me [as justice minister] is a problem. I have said it clearly. I am very worried....There is arbitrary enforcement...extortion and threats against state’s witnesses...instead of trying to get to the truth.”
Ohana complained about leaks against the prime minister, about mistreatment of Nir Hefetz – a key state’s witness against Netanyahu – and about an email which State Attorney Shai Nitzan sent in early November to former prosecutors, including four judges, calling on them to coordinate a public relations response to attacks on the prosecution.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut instructed Nitzan not to send emails to judges, even if they were former prosecutors, and Nitzan quickly apologized, calling the listing of the four judges an oversight.
Some have accepted Nitzan’s explanation and apology, while Ohana called Nitzan’s email a form of “bribery,” though it was unclear whether he meant this in a legal or generic political sense.
Ohana has come under intense attack by Mandelblit, Nitzan and Hayut for violating a gag order relating to Hefetz and for his attacks undermining law enforcement and the courts.
Though it seemed that Ohana might stay quiet for a while after a firestorm surrounding his violation of the gag order, Saturday night marked a new escalation of attacks by Ohana on the law enforcement system which he technically heads.
It is unclear whether Ohana will continue as justice minister if Netanyahu does not continue in office, and even Netanyahu might replace him with Likud minister Yariv Levin.
Nitzan is due to step down from his post on December 15 at the end of his term.
It is unclear how he will be replaced without a functioning Knesset.