Mandelblit: 2015 private call unrelated to PM decisions

Then-attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein closed the case against Mandelblit in 2015, but did not specify whether it was based on a “lack of evidence.”

In private telephone calls between 2015-2016, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit complained that then-state attorney Shai Nizan “has his hands around my throat,” Channel 12 reported Tuesday night.
Mandelblit was speaking, in recordings obtained by Channel 12, to then-Israel Bar Association president and confidante Efi Nave, about Nitzan’s decision not to declare the basis for closing an earlier case against the attorney-general.
The case in question is known as the Harpaz Affair.
Although Mandelblit was only a peripheral figure in the affair – which mostly involved a 2010 rivalry between then-defense minister Ehud Barak and then-IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi over who was the country’s “Mr. Security” – he was suspected of withholding information from police for 24 hours.
Then-attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein closed the case against Mandelblit in 2015, but did not specify whether it was based on a “lack of evidence” or being “completely groundless.”
Mandelblit’s office responded Tuesday night that, “there is no connection between what was said [in his private telephone conversation] and the professionally based decisions [regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] that were made.”
“It’s true that at the time of the telephone conversations, that Mandelblit had harsh claims against certain officials [Mandelblit also mentioned Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber] who were involved with the investigation of the Harpaz Affair, including relating to the basis for closing the case,” his office said in a statement.
The statement continued that, “working relations between Dr. Mandelblit and with the prior state attorney Shai Nitzan, were excellent, the two worked with full cooperation and a purity of purpose to guarantee the rule of law... and all of the other personal issues were left to the side.”
Should Mandelblit later seek appointment to the Supreme Court, he might need the reason for the case being closed to be set as “completely groundless.”
DATING BACK to 2015, Mandelblit had been trying to get Nitzan to officially specify that the case against him was closed for being “completely groundless.” However, by 2017, Nitzan had concluded that he could not rule on the issue.
Nitzan said that he might be perceived as having a conflict of interest to benefit Mandelblit since the attorney-general had become his superior.
In July, responding to a request to evaluate Mandelblit’s role in the Harpaz Affair, Justice Ministry oversight czar Judge David Rozen said that if an error needs to be fixed, it is that Mandelblit’s name should be fully cleared.
Rozen issued his ruling the day after Netanyahu launched multiple attacks on Mandelblit for seeking to block him from receiving tycoon donations to pay his legal expenses in his public corruption trial.
The oversight czar, who sent former prime minister Ehud Olmert to jail and criticized Mandelblit and the prosecution on a number of issues, is not viewed as being in anyone’s pocket.
Shortly before Rozen’s decision, Channel 13’s Ayala Hasson and leaks from supporters of Netanyahu had called into question whether charges against Mandelblit should have been dropped and whether he improperly tampered with the basis for which his case was closed.
However, Rozen said the biggest error to be fixed now is that Mandelblit’s case should be officially closed because those suspicions have been found to be groundless.
In the run up to the trial of Netanyahu for public corruption, supporters of the prime minister have claimed that Mandelblit was blackmailed or had some kind of improper motivation in his decision to indict the prime minister.
In the recordings of Mandelblit’s private conversation with Nave from 2015-2016, the attorney-general provides some of the first direct evidence that he felt Nitzan was unfairly holding the Harpaz Affair over his head.
Mandelblit makes no reference to the Netanyahu cases and his decisions about those cases came in 2019, long after Nitzan had refused to make a change in the grounds for closing the Harpaz Affair against him.
Whether observers will see a connection between Nitzan’s decision on the Harpaz Affair and Mandelblit’s decision regarding Netanyahu will likely depend on each person’s politics.
What is clear from the report is that in 2015-2016, Mandelblit had a major point of tension with Nitzan regarding the Harpaz Affair decision.