In perhaps the most overt attack yet by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the PM openly accused him of plotting to oust him.
Several hours after Mandelblit submitted his opinion that Netanyahu should not be allowed to accept a large donation from a wealthy American friend, Netanyahu declared that “Mandelblit’s plot of a governmental coup has been fully exposed.
“Mandelblit is trying to undo the democratic decision of millions of citizens who elected Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister,” he said.
Israel’s attorney general said Tuesday he opposed a request from Netanyahu to have a wealthy American supporter finance his legal defense against corruption charges.
Netanyahu had asked an Israeli oversight committee to allow a 10 million shekel ($2.9 million) donation from Spencer Partrich, a Michigan-based real estate magnate, to fund his legal team. Because Partrich also happens to be a witness in one of the cases, the committee had asked the country’s attorney general for his opinion on the matter.
In his response, Avichai Mandelblit said there was no reason to grant Netanyahu this “unusual gift,” particularly since Partrich’s relationship to Netanyahu dates back to his first term in office in the 1990s.
“Even if over time a personal friendship developed between them, the relationship was built on the basis of one between a wealthy businessman and a senior politician, with all that that entails,” he wrote in his opinion.
Mandelblit’s stance will likely lead to the committee rejecting Netanyahu’s request, in another setback for the beleaguered prime minister. His associates lashed out at Mandelblit’s decision, calling it another chapter in the “persecution” of the Israeli leader.
While the request itself for financial aid from a friend was not illegal, the optics were jarring because Netanyahu is standing trial for just such sketchy ties to wealthy businessmen.
In addition, just last week, he successfully got the Knesset to approve tax exemptions that could exceed $150,000, all while Israel is grappling with a major economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the committee declined his request for the 10 million shekels from Partrich, saying it was inappropriate given the charges against him, the documents show. The committee said its decision was final.
But when a new committee was formed under Netanyahu’s hand-picked state comptroller, it took up the request again, citing “a significant change in circumstances” that arose following Netanyahu’s indictment in January, according to the committee documents.
Following the attorney general’s opinion Tuesday, he will likely be turned down again.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted on Tuesday, that he “fully backs” Avichai Mandelblit following his rejection of Netanyahu’s request for financial legal aid, according to Ynet.
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn from Blue & White also defended the attorney general:
“Mandelblit is not persecuting anyone,” said Nissenkorn in a statement, “he is simply doing his job. An attack on the state’s gatekeepers serve to harm and weaken our democracy, which will only serve to violate the rights of every citizen in the State of Israel.”
Updated Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 4:09 pm netanyahu comment