Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana declared in a televised speech Tuesday evening that “almost no one” has made an effort to expose the “dangerous symbiosis” that exists between Israel Police officials, the state prosecution and the media.
“When necessary—for example, to oust a justice minister who is not favored by the system—cases were pulled out and details were leaked to certain journalists. Always the same journalists,” said Ohana. “All so that the politicians labeled will always remember that a sword is at their throats. If that’s not extortion, I don’t know what is.”
Ohana’s remarks came in response to the criminal investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as a new investigation this week against some of the premier’s aides and media advisers.
Ohana went on to accuse the “prosecution within the prosecution of setting its schedule according to the agenda of the political system, election dates, and when the government will be formed.” In doing so, he said, “it is making itself a political player—a player that is not elected by the public.”
Ohana also had criticism for attorney Liat Ben-Ari, who was absent from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing earlier this month because she was on vacation with her family.
“The prosecution within the prosecution is on vacation during the hearing, and according to the leaks—again, leaks—made up her mind before she read and responded to the many materials [presented]. It makes no difference what arguments were presented in the hearing,” he said.
The justice minister said his requests to investigate the leaks from the Netanyahu investigations have been consistently turned down by law enforcement.
“In the past few months, I’ve suggested polygraph tests,” said Ohana. “I took those tests when I was serving with the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], and thousands of others—including employees of the Shin Bet, the Mossad, the IDF and even the police—take them. If it’s OK for them, why not officials in the State Attorney’s Office? … I suggested printing out transcripts of all the phone conversations of anyone in the [State Attorney’s Office] who had access to the information that was leaked. I got a blanket refusal.”
Addressing his remarks to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Ohana said, “I’m appealing to you and asking for an impartial investigation … there have been dozens, possibly hundreds, of leaks to various media outlets over the past three years. Sir, every one of these violations carries a possible punishment of three years in prison—we’re talking about hundreds of years!”
Ohana also touched on how Israelis might react to his impassioned speech, saying that while people might ask “how can a justice minister say such things about the entire system he’s in charge of,” his answer was “how can a justice minister turn a blind eye?”
Mandelblit put out an official statement condemning Ohana’s speech, speaking on his own behalf as well as that of State Attorney Shai Nitzan: “We regret deeply the remarks the justice minister made this evening. We reject the attempt to besmirch the work of police and justice officials without any basis in fact. The law enforcement system will not be dragged into politics, just like it never has in the past. No one will deter us from doing our work faithfully.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.