Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday issued a legal opinion recommending the rejection of a Likud Party petition seeking to make it illegal to publish leaks from the ongoing criminal investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In his opinion, Mandelblit stated that there was “no room” for the petition, which was filed with the Knesset Central Election Committee on Friday in protest against “illegal leaks that are meant to harm the right-wing leadership and Likud’s success” in the upcoming election.
According to Mandelblit, releasing material from the investigations does not meet the definition of campaign propaganda.
“This is a news release by a television channel,” he stated, “not by a candidate or candidate list. This is a matter of interest to [the] question [of] whether it is election propaganda,” he stated, adding that the news releases contain “information which the editors consider newsworthy in accordance with their professional considerations.”
Therefore, he said, “It is difficult to justify the argument that this is campaign propaganda, so the ground slips out from under the argument anyway.”
While saying he “views with seriousness the transmission of information without permission or authority from a criminal proceeding currently in the process of being considered” and that “providing such information could adversely affect the conduct of the criminal proceeding, impair the rights of suspects and defendants, as well as impair the purity of the judicial proceeding,” the Likud petition, he said, asks the Election Commission chairman to act in a way that goes beyond his authority.
Reacting to Mandelblit’s rejection of the petition, the Likud said it was “particularly puzzling in light of the fact that only five months ago [Mandelblit] published an opposite opinion, stating that the [release of] investigation material should be delayed in files related to the prime minister until after the election date, fearing that the evidence will find its way to the media and be published during the election period.”
Netanyahu has frequently criticized the Israeli media and in particular Channel 12 over leaks of materials from the investigations against him.
On Friday, Netanyahu called for a boycott of Channel 12 and Keshet, claiming that crime reporter Guy Peleg had intentionally misquoted transcripts to harm him, calling the outlet a “propaganda channel” with a “blood libel” based on false testimony.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in the criminal cases against him as he fights for re-election. The prime minister is scheduled for a pre-indictment hearing on Oct. 2-3 in multiple breach of trust corruption probes.