As Benjamin Netanyahu’s May 24 trial draws closer, the State Prosecutor's Office is acting on the assumption that supporters of the thrice-indicted prime minister will step up their attacks on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, mainly using social media to do so.
After the High Court (another target for Netanyahu's allies) ruled on Wednesday that the indicted prime minister can indeed form a government, his associates turned their gaze on the trial, which will take place at Jerusalem District Court.
“Netanyahu’s close associates will try to present the attorney general as the accused as opposed to the accuser,” said a senior official in the Prosecutor's Office.
“The prime minister’s goal is to arrive at court after Mandelblit has been disgraced, as if Mandelblit himself were a criminal,” added the official.
The aim, he said, is to show that during his stint as Chief Military Advocate General, Mandelblit "helped then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi during the Harpaz Affair. This narrative will depict Mandelblit as unworthy of leading the prosecution against Netanyahu.”
On Friday, Channel 13 news anchor Ayala Hasson said she had a recording made during the 2010 affair, in which a document claimed that Yoav Galant had been digging up dirt on his rivals in order to secure the position of IDF chief after Ashkenazi.
The document was actually a forgery produced by Boaz Harpaz, a former Military Intelligence officer and associate of Ashkenazi, in an effort to discredit Galant.
Galant was subsequently removed from consideration due to a separate scandal over his use of public land for private construction. Ashkenazi was ultimately replaced by Benny Gantz, who is now his political partner in Blue & White.
Mandelblit was later accused of hiding the fact that Ashkenazi had had the forged document in his possession, although the High Court subsequently ruled there had been no misconduct on his part.
According to Hasson, the recording is of a 2010 conversation between Mandelblit and Ashkenazi, and while its contents are under gag order she claims it is proof of Mandelblit's improper involvement in the affair.
“Mandelblit is done for,” wrote Netanyahu’s followers on Twitter following Hasson’s report. “Now is the time to insist that the shameful trial against Netanyahu is dropped.”
A video inciting against Mandelblit was also released on social networks, mainly shared by right-wing activists who oppose the legal proceedings against Netanyahu.
The video shows former police officials, journalists and jurists and a picture of Mandelblit, accompanied by the words: “He cannot run from the truth - it will bury him deep in the ground.”
The State Prosecutor's Office said that partial and biased information is being disseminated on social media in an attempt to skew the facts and shift focus to allegations against Mandelblit, rather than focusing on the charges brought against Netanyahu.
“Based on this, certain MKs and Likud ministers are calling on the attorney general to resign, “ the State Prosecutor's Office said.
Netanyahu's Likud party was quick to capitalize on Hasson's claims.
"This shows the parlous state of law enforcement in Israel," said Miri Regev, a Likud minister who has very close ties to the Netanyahu family.
“The time has come to reopen the Harpaz affair and see the investigation to its conclusion. It's time to shake up the law enforcement agencies and it's time for the law enforcement agencies to realize that they are not above the law."
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who will vacate his position with the swearing in of the new government, has made it clear he does not intend to go quietly and announced his plan to demand a through investigation of the State Prosecutor's Office.
“"If the state comptroller refrains from carrying out the investigation, I would consider setting up a government committee of inquiry to hold a comprehensive review of all the serious allegations," Ohana wrote on social media.
On Wednesday, the Knesset Permit Committee will convene for a new hearing of a request by the prime minister for permission to take a loan to finance his legal costs, which his legal team estimates at some NIS 10 million.
A few months ago, the committee approved Netanyahu's request for a NIS 2 million loan from American business tycoon Spencer Partridge, a close friend of Netanyahu.
In the coming days, Mandelblit must decide whether to recommend that the court to live broadcast the opening of the prime minister's trial, as requested by the media.
Mandelblit is expected to approve the request under two conditions: the consent of the defendants in the case, first and foremost by Netanyahu, and restrictions on sessions whose broadcast would impact on the trial.