(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Escalating the rhetoric against the law enforcement authorities investigating him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday they are pressuring people to turn state’s witness against him, lie and defame him.
In a video posted on his Facebook page, Netanyahu described what he sees as the process of recruiting state’s witnesses.
“They take people who they claim committed a crime, arrest them, intimidate them, tell them: ‘Your life is over, and so is the life of your family. We will take almost everything you have, including your freedom,’” he said.
“[Then they ask them]: ‘You want to get away with it? There is one way out – smear Netanyahu. It doesn’t matter that what you say are hallucinatory lies. What’s important is that you smear Netanyahu.’”
The prime minister is a suspect in three investigations – Case 1000 (the “gifts affair”), in which he received gifts police estimate were worth NIS 1 million from international movie producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer, and in return allegedly used his power to benefit them; Case 2000 (the “Yediot Aharonot affair”), in which police suspect that he negotiated with Yediot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes for favorable coverage, and in return said he would act to weaken its competitor Israel Hayom; and Case 4000 (the “Bezeq case”), in which police suspect Netanyahu acted to benefit Bezeq telecommunications company and its controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, in return for favorable coverage on the Walla news website, which is owned by Elovitch as well.
Police said last month, when they concluded their investigations in Cases 1000 and 2000 and handed their findings over to the state prosecution, that they found evidence that tied Netanyahu to bribery offenses.
During the investigation of these three cases, police and the prosecution recruited three state’s witnesses who had been very close to Netanyahu: his former chief of staff Ari Harow, who signed a state’s witness deal in August; Communications Ministry suspended director-general Shlomo Filber, who signed a deal last month; and former Netanyahu family media adviser Nir Hefetz, who signed a deal on Sunday.
The prime minister on Wednesday dubbed the recruitment of his associates as “the state’s witnesses industry.” He added that when there is a real reason to indict, there is no reason to recruit even one state’s witness.
“And when there’s nothing, even a thousand state’s witnesses won’t help. This obsessive pursuit after a state’s witness, and then another one and another one, is the best evidence that there is nothing [to the probes],” he said.
“So they [police] will continue in their path, and I will continue in mine,” he added.
In the week before police announced their conclusions on Cases 1000 and 2000, Netanyahu posted four Facebook videos dismissing the credibility of the police regarding his investigations.
His comments followed remarks made by Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich to Keshet’s investigative journalism show Uvda, in which he hinted that Netanyahu sent private investigators to collect information against the team investigating him.
The Israel Police did not respond to The Jerusalem Post’s request for a comment on Netanyahu’s remarks. However, Channel 10 News quoted a senior law enforcement official, saying that “Netanyahu, with his attacks, is trying to destroy the rule of law.... He forgets that he is the prime minister.
“The pressure placed on him after Hefetz signed a state’s witness deal is working,” the law enforcement official was quoted as saying.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said that Netanyahu’s remarks “set a new record of madness.
“The prime minister cannot tell his citizens that the police, the state prosecution, the courts and the system of the rule of law are promoting ‘hallucinatory lies,’ and that they cannot be trusted. The prime minister should reinforce the public’s faith in the institutions of the state, not damage it in a way that will take many years to restore,” he said.
Netanyahu “crossed a redline that should not be crossed,” Lapid said.