AG: We won't participate in hearing on 'conflict of interest'

AG instructs law enforcement reps. not to participate in Knesset hearing on Netanyahu case investigator's suspected conflict of interest.

Tal Polon ,

Avichai Mandelblit
Avichai Mandelblit
Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced today, Thursday, that he had instructed representatives of the State Attorney, Israel Police and police investigations unit (Mahash) not to appear at a meeting to be held later today in the Knesset’s Interior Committee that will deal with suspicions that a former police official faced a conflict of interest while he headed investigations against the Netanyahu family.

The reports in question center around former commander of the Lahav 433 anti-fraud police unit Roni Ritman, who headed investigations which led to the indictment of Sara Netanyahu, as well as Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000, which deal with bribery charges against the prime minister.

In recent days, the Haaretz and Maariv newspapers published reports indicating that Ritman suspected the Netanyahus to be behind a sexual harassment complaint lodged against him - even as he headed the Netanyahu investigations.

In light of the reports, MK Yoav Kish (Likud), called a meeting in the Knesset’s Interior Committee, which he heads, to investigate the claims.

“We will examine how the prime minister's investigation took place when the responsible investigator believed that Netanyahu is running a campaign against him for sexual harassment,” Kish declared.

Yesterday, however, Attorney General Mandelblit wrote to Kish, asking him to cancel the meeting on grounds that it could “harm investigations that are underway,” and questioning the motivations behind it.

"From the subject of the meeting, as well as the remarks made by MK Kish in his press release, it appears that the planned meeting is likely to constitute an infringement - would that it was unintentional - into the sphere of law enforcement ... It seems that it may even harm the investigations that are underway in a manner that could be seen, Heaven forbid, as an attempt to divert justice.”

Kish did not take kindly to the request, responding in a letter to the attorney general, "With all due respect, the law enforcement system is not extraterritorial. It is part of the executive branch, and therefore it is subject to the scrutiny of the legislative branch, which is obligated to examine such serious claims which undermine the public’s trust in the law enforcement system.”

"I am obliged to note that your attempt or your request to stop this discussion or to influence any of those invited to it, or, Heaven forbid, to accuse elected officials of inappropriate behavior is very serious. I will insist on the right of the public to know that the law enforcement agencies at whose helm [you] stand are functioning properly.”

Today, Mandelblit wrote a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, announcing that law enforcement officials subordinate to him would not take part in the meeting, arguing that holding the meeting “at a time when the investigations concerning the prime minister continue, blatantly violates the boundaries of the criminal field, which requires complete independence for investigators and prosecutors in their professional work.”

Mandelblit noted that that he was “well aware of the significance of [his] decision, which stands in stark contrast to the usual and acceptable conduct of the attorney general and law enforcement in relation to the work of the Knesset.”

“However, after many attempts were made to prevent the situation in which we find ourselves, I came to the conclusion that there is no escape from taking this step, to maintain the independence of the law enforcement system in the State of Israel, ensure the purity of investigations related to the prime minister, and protect the public’s trust in the work of investigative and legal bodies - considerations which, throughout the years of the Knesset’s work, prevented until now the holding of unusual meetings like this,” he said.