The Likud’s new smear campaign against Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and the State Attorney’s Office ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial on May 24 needs to be condemned in the strongest terms. It is a campaign to undermine and delegitimize the rule of law in Israel, as well as impugn the good name of Mandelblit and those who work under him. To achieve this goal, Likud officials – led by outgoing Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev – have reopened the 10-year-old Harpaz Affair, accusing Mandelblit – who served as chief military advocate general at the time – of impropriety. They allege that in 2010, Mandelblit assisted then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in discrediting Yoav Gallant, a leading candidate favored by then-defense minister Ehud Barak to replace Ashkenazi. On Friday night, Channel 13 published part of a transcript of a conversation between Ashkenazi and Mandelblit that had been deemed inadmissible by legal authorities 10 years ago. Digging it up now is not only potentially illegal, but also shows to what length this campaign is willing to go.The so-called Harpaz document, detailing plans to launch a mudslinging campaign against Askhenazi, turned out to be a forgery produced by Boaz Harpaz, a former Ashkenazi associate in IDF Military Intelligence, and Mandelblit was cleared of any wrongdoing in the affair. In fact, three years later, in 2013, Netanyahu saw fit to appoint Mandelblit to the post of cabinet secretary, and three years after that, in 2016, he was appointed to the prestigious position of attorney-general – backed by Netanyahu and then-justice minister Ayelet Shaked.Why, you may ask, is the Likud conducting this campaign against Mandelblit now, five months after he indicted Netanyahu for alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases, dubbed Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000? According to a senior official in the State Attorney’s Office quoted by Ynet, the campaign is aimed at disgracing Mandelblit ahead of Netanyahu’s trial. “Netanyahu’s close associates will try to present the attorney general as the accused as opposed to the accuser,” the official was quoted as saying. “The prime minister’s goal is to arrive at court after Mandelblit has been disgraced, as if Mandelblit himself were a criminal.”The Likud narrative, according to the official, “will depict Mandelblit as unworthy of leading the prosecution against Netanyahu.”Besides targeting an attorney general, the smear campaign demonstrates that there is something rotten in the State of Israel. Although Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has now reneged on his pledge not to sit in the same government as an indicted prime minister, in the interests of national unity during the coronavirus pandemic, we urge him to take a firm stand against the campaign to smear the attorney general and his good offices.With members of the new government due to take their oaths of office this week, we also appeal to them – and especially the new justice minister, Avi Nissenkorn – to fully back Mandelblit and appoint a new state attorney who will uphold the rule of law.The rule of law is a fundamental principle of a democratic state such as Israel. If Netanyahu is innocent, as he proclaims repeatedly, let him prove this before the Jerusalem District Court. Turning the attorney general into a scapegoat ahead of his trial sets a dangerous precedent and is a preview of what is likely to come once the trial officially begins. Before it gets out of hand, Netanyahu should put an immediate halt to the campaign by members of his government and his political party assailing the country’s judicial authorities and their personnel. On the contrary, they should be showing respect to a fair legal system that is a source of pride for all Israelis. After all, it is this same legal system that cleared Netanyahu last week to form the new government even though he is facing severe corruption charges. As the ruling party, the Likud should remember its late leader Menachem Begin’s famous line, “There are judges in Jerusalem.” There is room for criticism, but launching attacks like the one against Mandelblit has the potential to erode the rule of law in Israel and lead the country to a state of anarchy. That cannot be allowed to happen.