Explained: Why Israel’s Attorney General Believes Netanyahu Is Out to Destroy Him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed two significant victories over the past week. First, the deal was finalized for a unity government with Benny Gantz that will guarantee his leadership for the coming year and a half – and then the High Court of Justice decided unanimously that the charges on which he will stand trial on May 24 would not prevent him from forming that government.

With those battles contained, his sights seem set on a new war: A full-scale attack on the character of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit – the man responsible for bringing the indictments against Netanyahu for which he is scheduled to stand trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

The battle against the entire legal system is being led by Netanyahu loyalists, including Amir Ohana, who is in his final days as justice minister before being replaced when the new Netanyahu-Gantz unity government is sworn-in on Thursday.

Ohana is bidding farewell with a whirlwind of allegations, including a blistering Facebook post, citing “conflicts of interests” and “ominous motives,” declaring that “anyone with eyes in his head can see the unprecedented decline in public trust in the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.” The heads of both offices – Mendelblit and outgoing State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan – were instrumental in recommending the indictment against Netanyahu last year.

Events came to a head on Sunday when Ohana met State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman and called on him to investigate Mendelblit's role in the so-called Harpaz affair from nearly a decade ago.

The groundwork for this fight has been long in the making: Mendelblit and Ohana have been antagonists since the day the acting justice minister entered office last June. While the rhetoric by Ohana against Mendelblit specifically, and state prosecutors in general, has become particularly bruising as the clock ticks down to the end of his tenure – it is hardly new.

The latest round of activity began in February, when Haaretz’s Gidi Weitz reported on initial efforts by the Netanyahu camp to “dig up dirt” on Mendelblit – or, as they say in the world of U.S. President Donald Trump, to “investigate the investigators.” The apparent goal of the exercise: Undermining Mendelblit’s credibility ahead of Netanyahu’s trial, which at that time was set to begin in March, just after Israel’s third round of elections in the space of a year.