Amid increasing indication that a pre-indictment hearing against him will be ordered by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit ahead of the
April elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his claims that the investigation against him was slanted before the nation on Monday night.
In a televised declaration from the Prime Minister’s Residence, Netanyahu called for a confrontation with state witnesses.
The declaration came after a late afternoon announcement that Netanyahu would be making a “dramatic” statement in the evening, leading to speculation running the gamut from his possible resignation to a deal being reached with Mandelblit.
Netanyahu demanded to be allowed to meet with the state’s witnesses on his three corruption cases.
“During the investigations, I demanded a confrontation with the state’s witnesses,” Netanyahu said. “I wanted to look them in the eyes and show them the truth. I asked twice and was rejected.”
Netanyahu wondered why his requests were rejected, saying that such a meeting would help reveal the truth.
“What do they have to be afraid of? What are they hiding? I am not afraid. I do not have anything to hide. Therefore, tonight, I repeat my demand for a confrontation with state’s witnesses… I am certain that I am right,” he stated.
Netanyahu clarified at the beginning of his statement that he is not trying to undermine the rule of law, calling the judiciary one of the foundations of Israeli democracy. However, he added, like the Knesset or the government, the judicial branch is not immune from criticism.
Police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted after they concluded three investigations. Case 4000 (the “Bezeq-Walla! Affair”) is considered to have the strongest evidence, and may bring a bribery indictment. Mandelblit may charge Netanyahu with breach of trust, but not bribery, in Case 1000 (the “Illegal Gifts Affair”). Case 2000 (the “Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair”) may still be closed entirely.
Referring to Case 4000, Netanyahu asked “What are they talking about when they say bribery?... They’re talking about positive media coverage. Me? The person most hated by the media? It’s absurd!”
Netanyahu accused Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid of meeting with Yediot Aharonot
publisher Arnon Mozes dozens of times, something Lapid has denied, supporting the bill that would close Israel Hayom, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, and then receiving positive coverage in Yediot.
“The 43 MKs who supported the bill [to shut down Israel Hayom] weren’t even invited to coffee with the investigators,” Netanyahu lamented.
Netanyahu also posited that if he “led another disengagement or agreed to divide Jerusalem or give up on Israel’s security,” all of the investigations against [him] would end.
“I will never do that,” he vowed.
The Justice Ministry responded that Netanyahu’s investigations were professional and thorough, under the State Attorney and Attorney General’s supervision, and they are reviewing the outcomes of the probes.
“It would be inappropriate for law enforcement authorities to refer to the actions taken in the investigation and the details of testimony in the media, certainly not at this point,” the Justice Ministry spokesman said.
Labor chairman Avi Gabbay accused Netanyahu of attacking legal authorities.
“In a normal country, the prime minister would not behave in such a way,” he said. “Instead of caring about the security of residents of the South, about the cost of living, or the deteriorating health system, Netanyahu is busy saving himself from investigations.”
Gabbay called on Lapid and Israel Resilience leader Benny Gantz to vow, as he did, that they will not join a Netanyahu-led government.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg mocked Netanyahu for having his spokesman announce hours before the statement that he is making a “dramatic” announcement.
“The only dramatic thing here is a prime minister who remains in office while there are three recommendations to indict him for bribery. Until Netanyahu quits, this is election campaigning that should not be broadcast,” Zandberg said.
Culture Minister Miri Regev defended Netanyahu, saying, “It’s not every day that we hear about people under investigation who ask for a confrontation with state witnesses and are refused.
“This only shows how much the investigators do not really want to find the truth, but are sticking to a version that suits them. Every day we see how there is no justice in the cases against the prime minister. I support the prime minister, and believe he is innocent,” Regev said.
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