Ex-A-G Mandelblit: I refused to let pressures stop Netanyahu trial

Speaking at an Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv celebrating his tenure, former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit said that Netanyahu had attempted to undermine his position.

Avicahi Mandelblit (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Avicahi Mandelblit
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit on Monday night said that he refused to allow the massive pressures against him cause the case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt, in his first interview since retiring on February 1.

Speaking at an Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv celebrating his tenure, he said the hardest moment of his term was "to open the investigation against a sitting prime minister who I respected a lot... and to file the indictment [against Netanyahu] in the end. But it was a professional decision, I made it with a heavy heart, but based on evidence. Clearly it was very hard personally, but it was a decision I am fully at peace with."

According to Mandelblit, his first four-and-a-half years he worked mostly in harmony with the Netanyahu government, but in his last 18 months he "identified a series of moves" including "the illegal appointment of a justice minister and the taking of an illegal vote" which were "directed at undermining the legitimacy of the office of the attorney-general."

The former attorney-general said that at this point he "needed to guard the rule of law" even if it meant banging heads with the government and that he "stood on guard" against attempts to halt the Netanyahu trial.

At the same time, he said that, "my door was always open" to a plea deal with Netanyahu, but that he was always committed to a proper professional process, implying that the former prime minister started negotiations too late in his term to finish the process.

 BENJAMIN NETANYAHU seen at Jerusalem District Court during his trial. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU seen at Jerusalem District Court during his trial. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

He refused to go into the details of the secret plea deal negotiations he held with Netanyahu, yet he added, "you cannot make decisions based on criticism...you always made decisions based on the public interest."

Regarding the Pegasus police spying scandal, he said, "I did not fall out of my chair."

Downplaying the issue, he implied that the public should trust the probe which he ordered and which Deputy Attorney-General Amit Merari publicized a few hours earlier, saying there were no major legal violations.

Mandelblit also said that the public should not forget that the Police cell phone hacking powers mostly exist and need to exist for combating sophisticated organized criminal groups, especially in the Israeli-Arab sector.

"Spying is not a nice word, we need to do things transparently and with new updated legislation," but he did not voice any criticism of the Police.

Further, he said critics should be careful to look at "the nature of any departures" from court orders by the Police to see whether they had any real negative impact.