Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused the country’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, of orchestrating a coup attempt, just hours after Mandelblit officially opposed Netanyahu’s request that he be allowed to receive NIS 10 million ($3 million) from U.S. businessman Spencer Partrich to defray the costs of his criminal trial.
In a legal opinion released by the Justice Ministry on Tuesday, Mandelblit told the permits committee at the State Comptroller’s Office, to which the premier had submitted a request that he be allowed to accept the funds, that he opposed the request. The attorney general said that the money was tantamount to a gift, and thus illegal for a public official to receive under Israeli law, and that furthermore Partrich is also a witness in one of the cases against Netanyahu.
Sources close to Netanyahu said on Tuesday in response that “the attorney general’s conflicts of interest cry out to heaven. On the one hand, he submits a baseless indictment against the prime minister, while on the other he does everything possible to prevent the prime minister from being able to defend himself.”
The sources went on to say that “Mandelblit is putting the prime minister on trial based on unfounded, ‘stitched-together’ accusations that cost taxpayers NIS 250 million [$72 million], employing criminal methods such as witness extortion. At the same time, Mandelblit is trying in every way possible to prevent Netanyahu from exercising his basic right to defend himself, via private assistance that won’t cost the taxpayer a penny. Once again, we see that there is one law for Netanyahu and another for everyone else.”
Justice Ministry officials fired back, calling the accusations “blatant lies by Netanyahu and the ministers” and another step in an ongoing delegitimization campaign against the country’s legal system. “Next in line will be the judges,” the officials said, adding, “If Netanyahu wants a gift of NIS 10 million from a friend, by all means, let him resign. Then he can also receive NIS 20 million [$6 million].”
In response, a post went up on Netanyahu’s official Twitter feed on Tuesday saying, “Mendelblit’s coup d’état has been revealed in all its ugliness. Amazingly and shamefully, senior Justice Department officials today called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign as a condition of his defense against the unfounded indictment that Mandelblit stitched together against him.
“Mandelblit is trying to overturn the democratic choice of millions of citizens who elected Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, as well as the decision of the 11 Supreme Court justices who determined that Prime Minister Netanyahu could continue to serve [as prime minister]. And this, in their chutzpah, is what ‘Justice Department officials’ call ‘democracy’ and ‘rule of law.’”
Netanyahu’s trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes opened last month in a Jerusalem court. The accusations include accepting some $200,000 in gifts from associates, and ensuring favorable regulation measures in exchange for positive media coverage.