Mandelblit Denies Mulling Call for Netanyahu to Resign

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (FLASH90)

The next call for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ to resign might well come not from Yair Lapid or Avigdor Liberman, or the demonstrators outside the PM’s residence—but from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, which the latter said is untrue.

Mandelblit’s office issued a denial of a story in Haaretz on Wednesday which said he is consulting with senior officials about the possibility that he might have to notify Netanyahu that his use of his office to attack the integrity of the law enforcement agencies in prosecuting the cases against him constitutes a conflict of interest. The report cited his practice of using press conferences about the coronavirus crisis as a forum for his defense against the corruption allegations against him.

The Haaretz story was unsourced. At least until now, the attorney general has taken the position that the embattled prime minister is legally entitled to remain in office despite the indictments against him.

At about the same time that story broke, Netanyahu unleashed another broadside against the attorney general earlier Wednesday evening in a Likud meeting, citing reports this week of a conflict of interest in one of the cases against him which had been covered up by the Justice Ministry and police officials.

“Is it possible that the attorney general didn’t know about all this behavior? Is it possible he didn’t approve this? I estimate with caution that the attorney general will not check into this. There’s no alternative but an independent inquiry,” Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu prevailed against the opposition in the Knesset on Wednesday in three separate votes on bills that would disqualify him from running for president.

The bills, sponsored by Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor were defeated by votes of 37 to 30, 35 to 27 and 37 to 25, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The voting went according to coalition-opposition lines, except that most Blue and White and all Yamina MKs absented themselves.

“We can’t let it happen that Netanyahu, a man with three criminal indictments, will become president,” Merav Michaeli (Labor) said, as she proposed her bill.

Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovich, another sponsor, said after voting that “a black flag is now flying over the Knesset, after it enabled the President’s Residence to remain a shelter for criminals.” The black flag was a reference to a symbol of the anti-Netanyahu protesters.

The attorney general’s office is denying a report that Avichai Mandelblit is looking into whether Netanyahu has to step down, according to Hebrew media.

The office says Mandelblit’s view that Netanyahu can remain in office while a defendant has not changed.