Danger of a constant drip-drop of leaks undermines trust in the judiciary

One day the target is former police commissioner Roni Alsheich, another day it’s former state attorney Shai Nitzan, and most often it is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Efforts are well under way to impugn the integrity of those involved in drawing up and issuing the indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and it is being done one leaked recording and one leaked email at a time.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
One day the target is former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich, another day it’s former state attorney Shai Nitzan, and most often it is Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
In May, just two weeks prior to the start in Jerusalem District Court of Netanyahu’s corruption trial, Channel 13’s Ayala Hasson dropped a bombshell revelation of the contents of a tape under gag order, which she said had Mandelblit, then the military advocate-general, telling his boss at the time, chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, that he would ensure that the case against Ashkenazi in the convoluted Harpaz Affair would be closed.
Mandelblit was subsequently cleared, with a number of other defendants, of any wrongdoing in the Harpaz Affair, such as obstruction of justice, though the file against him – and this is something that became very relevant again on Tuesday – was never formally closed.
Last month, Channel 12’s Amit Segal reported that Nitzan prevented an investigation into allegations that Alsheich leaked false information claiming that Yacoub Abu al-Kiyan, a Bedouin man killed in 2017 by police, had terrorist links.
In an email exchange with the head of the Police Investigation Department at the time, Nitzan said that what Alsheich did was “intolerable” and “scandalous,” but that he was reticent to take action due to “national interest” – hinting that this would give ammunition to those, an obvious allusion to Netanyahu, trying to delegitimize “the law enforcement system.”
During that same week, Segal reported that senior police officers and the state prosecutor’s office covered up a serious conflict of interest involving one of the top investigators of the cases involving Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
On Sunday, Segal struck again with a story that featured emails indicating that the Police Investigation Department did not follow up on an insider complaint against the police for the methods used to get former Netanyahu confidant Nir Hefetz to turn state’s witness against him.
And then on Tuesday, Channel 12 broadcast the tape of parts of conversations Mandelblit had in 2015-16 with former Israel Bar Association head Efi Nave, in which he cursed Nitzan for not formally closing the case against him in the Harpaz Affair, and as a result “having me by the throat.”
Why is that relevant? Because it plays into the theories that Mandelblit was forced to issue indictments against Netanyahu because of “goods” others held over him.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
And with Netanyahu’s trial set to begin in earnest with thrice weekly hearings in January, this drip-drop is likely to turn into a deluge by then.
Likud coalition whip Miki Zohar indicated as much in a 103FM radio interview on Wednesday, threatening more dirt if Mandelblit does not resign and drop the indictments against Netanyahu.
“I can guarantee that more things will be revealed soon,” he said. “If he doesn’t resign, it will be an earthquake. There will be no choice for Mandelblit but to resign and drop the indictments against Netanyahu.”
Much has been said and written in the eight months since COVID-19 first washed upon Israel’s shores about how the public has lost its trust and confidence in the executive and legislative branches of government. What the constant drumbeat of leaks and revelations about questionable actions in the legal establishment is doing is upending the public’s trust in that third branch of government: the judiciary.
Just because there are those out there trying to discredit Mandelblit and the State Attorney’s Office does not mean there is not a serious problem with some of Mandelblit’s behavior, and that of the legal establishment, which needs to be investigated, dealt with and corrected.
Likewise, just because there may be problems in the behavior of the attorney-general and the State Attorney’s Office does not mean that there is nothing to the indictments against Netanyahu.
Ultimately, the court will decide Netanyahu’s cases. By that time, hopefully, the public will not have lost complete confidence in all three branches of government. Because if that were the case, it would be a disaster for Israel.