Mandelblit Imposes Conflict of Interest Arrangement on Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool Photo via AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ will henceforth be banned from involvement in the appointment of law enforcement and legal officials, due to a conflict of interest, according to a ruling by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday.

The conflict of interest arrangement will prevent the prime minister, currently facing trial on corruption charges, from making appointments, even indirectly through subordinates, to such positions as police commissioner, state prosecutor and the next attorney general. Power of appointment to these posts would conflict with Netanyahu’s interest in favorable treatment during the prosecution of his cases.

Mandelblit said the arrangement does not require the approval of the premier, who has for months fought against such a decision.

Under the arrangement, Netanyahu also cannot be involved in any matters that affect witnesses or other defendants in his trial, or legislation that would affect the legal proceedings against him.

“The situation in which a prime minister is serving at the same time a criminal proceeding against him is being conducted is a precedential and exceptional situation, which requires special consideration,” Mandelblit’s legal opinion read.

Netanyahu must “avoid dealing with any matter that has an inherent link to the trial or matters discussed in it,” according to the document.

“Of course, a person under indictment has a personal interest in matters related to the officials tasked with managing his trial or who could affect the proceedings. In such cases, there is reasonable doubt that decisions will involve and be affected by personal interests.”

In August, Netanyahu rejected an earlier draft of the conflict of interest arrangement, claiming that the attorney general himself was in a conflict of interest, since he made the decision late last year to indict the prime minister.

At the time, Netanyahu wrote to Mandelblit that his proposal was “unreasonable, lacks authority, and is marred by an inherent conflict of interest,” as quoted in media reports.

“I hereby notify you that I reject the draft conflict of interests arrangement you proposed,” Netanyahu wrote. “I will act in accordance with the binding conflict of interest rules, and I will take action to notify the state comptroller about the matter.”

But the premier subsequently told the High Court of Justice that he would take no role in appointing senior Justice Ministry officials and an Israel Police commissioner.

“The prime minister has announced that for the sake of public clarity and without detracting from his claims [that he is legally allowed to], he will not deal with the appointment of the attorney general, state attorney and police commissioner,” said the response presented in Netanyahu’s name to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government.

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