Analysis: Netanyahu strikes back

Three former Netanyahu associates have now turned state's witness in cases that involve the prime minister.

March 7, 2018 21:47
2 minute read.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem January 7, 2018. . (photo credit: ABIR SULTAN / REUTERS)

The battle lines are finally drawn.

Late Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally struck back with force against his line of close aides who have turned state’s witness against him in the various public corruption cases.

As late as Tuesday, Netanyahu’s legal team still could not convey to The Jerusalem Post a coherent counterpoint to this tidal wave.

It had issued a short statement that the volume of state’s witnesses proved that they were all worthless.

If one of them was truly a silver bullet, then the police would have had no reason to give lenient plea bargains to the others.

There was some truth to this. The police’s granting top Netanyahu communications aide Nir Hefetz a deal with no jail time whatsoever was astonishing and possibly devalued the evidentiary power of whatever former aides Ari Harow and Shlomo Filber could bring against the prime minister.

But this all sidestepped the real question he may have to answer in court: Are they all lying against him, and if so, why? There are a very limited number of responses a defendant can make to such close state witnesses.

The argument that they are know-nothings does not hold water.

So one option is the scorched-earth strategy.

A defendant says that they are evil lying sinners who committed whatever crimes they have admitted to in order to enrich themselves, and their accusations against the defendant are just part of that pattern of falsity.

This is the strategy when the former aides were on the take and are considered lost causes.

The second is the pity strategy.

A defendant says, they may have been honest and maybe they were not getting any illegal bribes, but those poor former aides – the police scared them so much about jail time that they cracked and thought they had no choice but to turn on me to escape with their freedom.

This is the tactic that Netanyahu finally chose Wednesday night. Each of the aides were known for loyalty to the prime minister, and at least Filber and Harow are not accused of enriching themselves personally.

He also may still hope that suddenly in court, if he treats them right, they may have difficulty accusing him – a phenomenon that has happened before.

This will be a hard defense against aides who are now saying that they lied and withheld for months for the sole reason of protecting Netanyahu.

But it is probably his best bet. Whether it will be enough, only time will tell.

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