Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that he cannot appoint top legal or police officials, citing a conflict of interest due to the premier’s ongoing corruption trial, the Justice Ministry said.
In a legal opinion, Mandelblit said Netanyahu must not be involved in the nomination of judges or the police commissioner, as well as any other appointments that would meddle with the work of the state prosecution, the Attorney General’s Office, or police investigations.
Two of Netanyahu’s three criminal cases include allegations the prime minister offered to push legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications.
The prime minister in the past has also sought to advance legislation that would shield him from prosecution, though those efforts were put on ice with the formation of the unity government with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party.
The development came in a Justice Ministry response to the High Court of Justice, relating to a petition seeking limits on Netanyahu’s powers to make judicial appointments.
The political appointments that are currently vacant include a police commissioner.
Mandelblit has also been acting as state attorney in addition to attorney general, with Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White) indicating he will not change the arrangement and appoint a permanent state attorney.
Netanyahu earlier this month launched a scathing, unprecedented attack against Mandelblit, whom he appointed and who served previously as his cabinet secretary, accusing him of being part of a deep-state conspiracy scheme aiming to oust him for political reasons.
Netanyahu was slammed by his rivals over the accusations, which he made in a series of tweets and retweets, and a watchdog said it would file a police complaint for incitement.
The harangue came after Mandelblit told the Permits Committee at the State Comptroller’s Office that he opposed Netanyahu’s request to receive some NIS 10 million ($2.9 million) in outside funding for his legal defense in his corruption trial, saying the donation was tantamount to an illicit gift. The committee rejected the premier’s request on the basis of the attorney general’s recommendation.
“Mandelblit’s scheme to topple the leadership is exposed in all its ugliness,” Netanyahu tweeted. “Amazingly and shamefully, senior Justice Ministry officials today called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign as a condition for him to be able to defend himself against the baseless indictment Mandelblit tailored against him.”
“Mandelblit is trying to reverse the democratic decision of millions of citizens who chose Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister,” he claimed.
Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu last year on charges of fraud and breach of trust in three criminal investigations, as well as bribery in one of them. The cases center on accusations he received illegal gifts and traded political favors for positive news coverage. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing, and claims the left-wing opposition, media, police and state prosecution have conspired in an attempt to frame and oust him in a political coup.
Separately, Mandelblit this week asked the High Court of Justice to remove Likud MK Haim Katz’s immunity from prosecution, saying lawmakers had “exceeded” their authority in granting it in the first place. Katz faces charges of fraud and breach of trust.