“I think that law enforcement should stay out of politics. That’s the key.”
By Alex Traiman, JNS
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to decide in the coming days whether or not to formally indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on multiple charges of breach of trust, following lengthy investigations from which select pieces of evidence have been illegally leaked to the press.
Indeed, one of the primary reasons public support for Netanyahu has remained steadfast in the face of the criminal allegations against him is that the Israeli public has lost faith in the police and prosecution as fair and honest enforcers of Israeli law.
The prosecution, especially, has been criticized for its practices throughout the investigations into Netanyahu’s conduct, as well as for throwing a wrench into Israel’s electoral machine.
According to professor emeritus of Harvard Law School Alan Dershowitz, who has called for Mandelblit to drop the charges against Netanyahu, such “attacks on the police and the prosecution are part of the system of checks and balances, and are perfectly appropriate” as long as there are “legitimate criticisms.”
Dershowitz distinguished, however, between attacks on the investigations and more general critiques of Israel’s far-reaching judicial system, which often acts as a super-legislative body with the power to demand the passage and implementation of laws, or their cancellation.
“There is a big difference between the attacks on the judicial aspect of the legal system and the prosecutorial aspect of the legal system,” Dershowitz told JNS, noting that attacks on the judicial branch “should not be acceptable because the judicial branch is supposed to be independent. I oppose attacks on the Supreme Court and the judicial branch.”
Many in Israel have accused the prosecution of racing to file indictments during the last weeks of the tenure of Shai Nitzan, a key prosecutor intent on filing charges against Netanyahu. His term officially ends on Dec. 15, when a new prosecutor will be selected.
Mandelblit is under no obligation to file charges by a specific date — he can choose not to file any — and could also decide to let another prosecutor weigh in on the cases.
Dershowitz has said that factors such as the personal career timetables of prosecutors “should not influence neutral decision-making,” and added that there may be merits to passing the cases to a new person. “Having a fresh set of eyes look at a controversial case is probably a good idea.”
While any upcoming announcement regarding Netanyahu’s cases will coincide with impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump, Dershowitz doesn’t see any similarities between the two.
“I think every case is different,” he said, adding that “I think that law enforcement should stay out of politics. That’s the key.”