Watchdog: Law enforcement must check if Netanyahu prosecutor broke law

The ministry watchdog said this is doubly important during a time when the state prosecution is under a microscope due to its decision to prosecute the prime minister.

Liat Ben Ari (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Liat Ben Ari
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Law enforcement must carefully check claims that Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben Ari may have violated construction laws at an additional residence in Rosh Ha’ayin, Justice Ministry oversight czar Judge David Rozen said on Tuesday.
Though construction laws are usually considered a very minor technical violation, the issue has outsized significance because Ben Ari is the lead prosecutor against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged corruption.
While Rozen said it was not within his authority to determine whether Ben Ari had committed a violation, he seemed to take the allegations seriously, implying that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit needed to do more to ensure that the actions of all top officials are beyond reproach.
The ministry watchdog said this is doubly important during a time when the state prosecution is under a microscope due to its decision to prosecute the prime minister.
The main allegations themselves relate to whether Ben Ari and her husband violated construction laws by dividing an additional residence they own in Rosh Ha’ayin into more than one residence as well as installing an additional doorway and entrance.
Responding to the allegations, Ben Ari seemed to admit that her husband had violated the local construction rules.
However, she claimed that he was already several months into a process for getting permission to legalize the changes after-the-fact, noting that there was a growing trend of such after-the-fact split residences being assisted by the municipality.
Ben Ari also said that she had no knowledge of the issue until it was reported in the media, since her husband handles their investment properties.
She did admit that she had legal responsibility since she was co-signed on the mortgage, but tried to portray the incident as a minor technical issue connected to her husband which has been blown out of proportion by supporters of Netanyahu who want to tear down the legal establishment at all costs.
Rozen responded to this last claim essentially saying that even if critics of the state prosecution are trying to campaign against them, then Ben Ari, Mandelblit and the rest of the system needs to work harder and be squeaky clean to set an example.
The watchdog dismissed Ben Ari's argument that the incident was related to her personal conduct, not her professional conduct, stating that law enforcement officials must be held to a higher standard regardless of whether the issue is professional or personal.
Rozen said that Mandelblit should issue new regulations to ensure allegations against top officials are handled without any cloud of impropriety that those officials could use their power to limit prosecutions against them.
In the meantime, Rozen said that the Rosh Ha’ayin municipality still needed to complete its own review of the issue, which should leave the determination beyond Ben Ari's influence in her capacity with national authorities.
The oversight czar did reject allegations that the ministry spokesman had improperly interfered on Ben Ari's behalf.
The back and forth between Rozen and Ben Ari has an additional side to it, because their two names will be forever linked as the prosecutor and judge in the conviction of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Holy Land trial.