Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit published a final legal opinion Monday stating that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot be involved in the appointment of law enforcement and legal officials, such as the police commissioner and state prosecutor, including via his associates.
The conflict of interest arrangement, signed by Mandelblit’s deputy Dina Zilber, was drafted in light of the premier’s trial on corruption charges.
Mandelblit says the arrangement does not require the approval of the premier, who has been battling with the attorney general for months, demanding to be involved in the appointment of the attorney general’s successor and others.
The Haaretz news site said Zilber had recently negotiated with Netanyahu’s lawyers, resulting in the softening of some restrictions featured in previous drafts of the arrangement.
Under the arrangement, Netanyahu also cannot be involved in any matters that affect witnesses or other defendants in his trial, or legislation that would impact the legal proceedings against him.
He cannot intervene in matters related to the status of several top police and prosecution officials, in several fields under the responsibility of the Communications Ministry, or in the Judicial Appointments Committee, which appoints judges to the Jerusalem District Court — where his trial is being conducted — and the Supreme Court, which would hear any appeals in the case.
“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.”
Netanyahu can be involved in the appointment of ministers, but “must avoid influencing the manner in which those representatives do their jobs regarding the Supreme Court and Jerusalem District Court judges.”
Netanyahu in August rejected an earlier draft of the conflict of interest arrangement proposed by Mandelblit, 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 in three corruption cases.
Hebrew-language media reported at the time that Netanyahu wrote to Mandelblit that his proposal was “unreasonable, lacks authority, and is marred by an inherent conflict of interest.”
“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.
Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court.
Netanyahu is accused of offering to advance legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications. He has also been charged with accepting some $200,000 in illicit gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer. He denies any wrongdoing.
HD Editors Note: Benjamin Netanyahu has been under pressure over the past year due to outlandish corruption accusations. Opponents have attempted to schemer and delegitimize the conservative Prime Minister, with the PM going as far as calling it an attempted “political coup” involving the media, police, and prosecutors. The attacks on Netanyahu have been similar to those perpetrated by the left in the United States against President Donald Trump.