Photo Credit: Flash 90
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit

Last month, Coalition Chairman MK Miki Zohar said in an interview with 103 FM that if Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit does not resign and dismiss the indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “there will be an earthquake,” as he put it, and more recordings will be revealed – beyond those that had been released the day before. In that recording, from 2016, Mandelblit is heard in conversation with former Bar Association head Efi Naveh, during which the AG calls former State Attorney Shai Nitzan a “maniac” for not closing the case against him in the Harpaz case, and complains that Nitzan “can hold me by the throat (Likud Demands Mandelblit’s Resignation; Shocking Recordings Imply AG Was Blackmailed to Indict Netanyahu).”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, November 4, 2019. / Flash90

On Thursday, MK Zohar was questioned by police with a warning for four hours on suspicion of extortion of Attorney General Mandelblit. Israel Police stated that “the investigation is being conducted with the approval and support of the State Attorney’s Office,” and that “we naturally will not be able to expand on further details beyond what has already been said.”

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MK Zohar later posted on Facebook: “A sad day for our democracy. I was called in for questioning by the police in Mandelblit’s case. I will not hide from you the fact that I was surprised, probably in light of the fact that this is a silencing investigation based on my expressing my views in a radio interview. In my humble opinion, this is a delusional investigation against an elected official in general, and against a rightwing elected official in particular.”

However, it turns out that AG Mandelblit is taking advantage of the powers available to him not only to intimidate his political rivals, but also his neighbors in his apartment building.

A week ago Thursday, Journalist Ayala Hasson revealed on News 13 the story of a Petah Tikva female lawyer who lives next door to Mandelblit, and who was arrested for questioning several months ago for shouting three words at him on the street: “Parashat Mishpatim, Shame.” and in the days that followed, two additional, similar cases were uncovered in which the AG’s neighbors were detained for questioning because of something they said to him.

Remember Mandelblit’s female attorney neighbor? She told Hasson that on a Saturday morning, Parshat Mishpatim (winter 2019), when she was on her way to synagogue with her husband, they passed by Mandelblit and his security guard and she hissed: “Parashat Mishpatim, Shame,” meaning he should be ashamed of the way he runs the justice (mishpatim) system during the week of the Mishpatim parsha.

Shortly thereafter, she was stopped by a police car and forced to come for immediate interrogation by order of the Petah Tikva police chief. When she refused to travel because of Shabbat, the police officers threatened that if she did not come in peace, she would be handcuffed and taken by force. She surrendered and agreed to ride in their patrol car on Shabbat. Her fingerprints were taken at the station and she was questioned with a warning.

When she asked what was the threat in her telling the AG that he should be ashamed of himself, the investigator replied that this was not the complaint about her speech, but for her invasion of the AG’s privacy.

It turns out, I kid you not, that a man as high up as Mandelblit enjoys a very broad definition of his privacy that includes the entire planet.

Good to know.

Israelis demonstrate in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the house of Attorney General of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, ahead of the hearing on the corruption cases in which Netanyahu is a suspect, on Oct. 5, 2019. / Flash90.

The same investigator also quoted from Mandelblit’s complaint that the neighbor had said more things against him, but the AG’s security guard testified that all he heard from her that Saturday morning was just the sentence “Parashat Mishpatim, Shame.”

Since that investigation, no proceedings have been opened against the AG’s neighbor and it can be assumed that the whole act was for the purpose of intimidation.

Another Petah Tikva resident, Yaron Raz, was also summoned for questioning because he said something to the AG on the street, and only this week was he informed that the case against him was being closed –after seven months.

He told the Mida website (סערת השתקת שכני מנדלבליט: יום אחד אתה מגלה שאתה חי בדיקטטורה) about the chain of events: “I was waiting for a friend outside the building on Saturday morning when I saw Mrs. Mandelblit going for a run and the guard accompanying her,” he recalled. “I jokingly told him he had to run with her to make her feel like Melania Trump, and he informed me I was detained and demanded that I identify myself. I refused to do that and he called two policemen who explained to me that only a police commander could come and release me.”

“I waited with them for about twenty minutes until the commander arrived and I explained to him what exactly happened and that there was no political interest here, and I thought that was the end of the story.”

But the saga had only just begun. “At 11 at night, I suddenly heard loud knocks on the door and again policemen came and told me that I should come immediately for questioning,” Raz recalled. “I was surprised. Am I a murder suspect that you should break into my house in the middle of the night? You couldn’t wait for the morning? They didn’t even let me use my own car and I had to travel with them in the patrol car.”

At the station, Raz was informed that he was being questioned on harassment, and only on Wednesday this week, seven months after the incident, was he notified that the case was closed.

Regarding the prosecution’s claim that he made threats against the security guard, Raz says unequivocally: “There were no threats on my part, it’s all inventions. What happened here in my opinion is that the AG picked up the phone to the Petah Tikva police and said jump and they asked how high. Apparently, his power is affecting his judgment and the fish stinks from the head. I am definitely considering legal action on the matter now.”

Another neighbor who encountered a harsh and arbitrary reaction after a chance encounter on the street with Mandelblit is Erez Nasimi, father of four and a high-tech employee. He told Mida about a Shabbat night last February, when “I walked with my daughter on the way back from the synagogue like every week, and our path crossed with Mandelblit and the security guards. I did not notice them from a distance and only when they approached did I see who it was, and I simply said to him in a calm voice and without getting upset: ‘Five years ago they tailored a case for you, and today they are the fair ones…”

According to Nasimi, “this whole encounter lasted a few seconds and everyone went on their way. Beyond that there was nothing. Everyone knows that I am a rightwinger, even though I never voted Likud, but there was no political intention behind my remarks. Suddenly I saw one of the security guards chasing me. He called the policeman in the car that was following them and the policeman claimed that the security guard heard me cursing. He said I should be detained and taken to the station, but I explained to him that I was not getting in the car on Shabbat.”

This time, too, the police showed extraordinary toughness against the little guy: “The policeman claimed that he checked with the station commander and explained that I must be taken in now. I asked that at least they let me bring my child home and she didn’t understand why the policeman insisted on accompanying us. I didn’t even have time to make kiddush with the family and I had to go to the station with the policeman,” Nasimi recalled.

“When I asked the investigator what crime I had committed, he replied that the district commander had issued a directive that it was forbidden to talk to the AG. At that moment I just wanted to end the story and promised not to talk to him anymore, and in addition, I received a two-week restraining order from the street near outside my house.”

Criminal attorney Itamar Barkai told Mida that certain issues repeat themselves in all the stories surrounding Mandelblit and his neighbors.

“The first problem is on the criminal level. According to the reports, there was no harassment here in the criminal sense and there were no threats at all, therefore there was no legal ground for an investigation in the first place,” he argued. “The law allows anyone who feels disturbed to go to court and apply for a restraining order, and there’s no need to drag people to a police station on Shabbat because of some trivial line they said to him on the street.”

“This is a crooked and wrongful conduct by everyone involved, and it’s no wonder that all the cases were eventually closed.”

The takeaway from these stories is that if you see Mandelblit on the street you are not allowed to talk to him or you’ll end up in a police station.

Of course, all of this can be fixed as soon as Mandelblit buys a duck and walks with him on his shoulder on Shabbat (There’s a reliable eruv in Petah Tikva), and then the neighbors can claim that they were not talking to Mandelblit at all, they were talking to the duck.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.