Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Union of Local Authorities.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
If the police’s recommendation for indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the so-called “illegal gifts” affair were not enough, he was also hit with alleged bribery in the “media bribery” affair.
What would a trial look like for Netanyahu in that second case?
On one hand, Netanyahu admits to having discussed with key people weakening Yisrael Hayom
in exchange for getting better coverage from Yediot Aharonot
. So he has to give up on tons of potential defenses before the case starts. Any recordings of him determining the state’s direction behind the scenes in dark, smoky rooms could be devastating.
On the other hand, there are potential factors in his favor. Will older witnesses like Yisrael Hayom
owner Sheldon Adelson hold up well enough to testify? If not, how will that impact the case? How will former Netanyahu chief-of-staff Ari Harow’s testimony impact the case?
Harow gave police crucial information to help fill in the details for framing Netanyahu’s intent, but he has also given indications that he will help the prime minister wherever he can. So he is a state witness who may also turn hostile to the state.
Based on previous indications given to The Jerusalem Post
, it is less clear that the prosecution will proceed to trial with this case.
But if it does, it would argue that the case is simple. Yediot
was losing millions of shekels to Yisrael Hayom
owner Arnon (Noni) Mozes asked Netanyahu to use his power to eliminate or reduce the influence of Yisrael Hayom
in order to get those millions back at some future time.
In exchange, Yediot
would not merely give the prime minister a favorable interview, but entirely shift its coverage – a shift which could be decisive whenever elections came around. The value in such a shift in coverage could be viewed as priceless.
Netanyahu will counter that as communications minister, he did not have direct power over Yisrael Hayom
– the interior minister did. Also, he will say his discussions with Mozes were game-playing. But he may need to face Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel and others who might testify that he approached them to seriously discuss a law to weaken Yisrael Hayom
In contrast, Netanyahu will say that he brought about early elections in order to block a different law, one that others were pushing with the aim of harming Yisrael Hayom
The prosecution’s biggest problem will be that nothing was ever exchanged – no deal was cut. They can only go after attempted bribery, whereas in the illegal gifts affair, Netanyahu did receive gifts. The defense’s biggest problem will be that – had the deal gone through – the potential gain to Netanyahu would have been massive.
To win, the prime minister needs the court to believe he is telling the truth, while what they will hear him say on recordings were deceptions.