Acting State Attorney Dan Eldad said on Sunday that he has referred suspicions related to conduct of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman for review.
Eldad’s actions come after Mandelblit called for him to step down by May 1 due to improper conduct and an improper process leading to his appointment.
Mandelblit and Eldad engaged in an astonishing war of words last Thursday, with Mandelblit saying Eldad had exhibited “moral, professional and administrative failings” during his short time in office, and the latter claiming he was under attack for investigating “worrying” information about his boss.
Mandelblit’s comments were made in a letter to Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz in which he expressed his opposition to extending Eldad’s tenure, explaining he found him unfit for the office and citing legal impediments.
Eldad was appointed to the position for a temporary three-month period in February by interim Justice Minister Amir Ohana, after former state attorney Shai Nitzan concluded his five-year term in December and after Ohana’s previous candidate was rejected by Mandelblit.
It is unclear what the purpose of Eldad’s move is since the comptroller does not have the authority to conduct criminal probes, and at most can perform an initial review and then refer any criminal issues back to the attorney general himself.
Sources familiar with the powers of the comptroller said that Englman could review the efficiency of the attorney general’s office, but not any criminal issues.
The referral to Englman is also awkward, because the comptroller, who was appointed in July 2019, is regarded as being overly close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and influencing certain processes to his benefit.
Mandelblit’s call for Eldad to step down would violate the coalition deal signed between Likud and Blue and White.
In response, Eldad implied that Mandelblit wanted to get rid of him because he was calling for a probe of the attorney general himself. Eldad did not elaborate on the probe other than to say it was based on information from an unnamed journalist.
Channel 13 reporter Akiva Novick later said that he was the one who asked Eldad to probe what led to the closing of the Harpaz Affair case against Mandelblit.
Mandelblit was a suspect in that case which mostly centered on a rivalry between then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak and then-IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi.
Ultimately, then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed the case against Mandelblit, who got an order from the High Court to verify that the case was closed on the basis of the case being baseless.
The High Court also approved Mandelblit to become attorney general despite a petition against him.
Eldad’s temporary appointment was due to expire on May 1. Mandelblit implied he could cover Eldad’s duties until the new government nominated a replacement, even if that took six months.