Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu.
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
What does it mean that David Shimron, one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s top aides and most trusted advisers, was offered a deal to turn state’s witness against someone more senior? Does it mean that the prime minister will soon become an official suspect in the “submarines affair”? Shimron is related to Netanyahu and is one of his top confidantes for decades, unofficially ranking him above former chiefs of staff, such as Ari Harow, who already turned state’s witness in other Netanyahu criminal probes.
One of the few equally senior people in Netanyahu’s inner circle, Yitzhak Molcho, is already a suspect without Shimron having to become a state’s witness.
And Shimron is a big fish to snag for the prosecution. He is about as close to the prime minister’s doorstep as you can get.
So who, other than Netanyahu, would be so worthwhile to get to that it would be worth giving Shimron a deal to avoid prosecution? At this point, although the prosecution continues to steadfastly maintain that Netanyahu is not a suspect, and although he has not been officially questioned in any manner about Case 3000, the most rational explanation would be that Netanyahu is the big fish the police are after.
That he has not been declared a suspect could be explained by a nuanced position by the prosecution in which they are playing two simultaneous hands.
On the one hand, up until the moment they have someone incriminating Netanyahu, they do not want to besmirch his name and be on the receiving end of his defenders’ outrage as they are with other probes.
On the other hand, they are laying the ground for and exploring the possibility of reeling him in by getting any key former aides to turn on him to save themselves – see Shula Zaken taking down her benefactor, former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Admittedly, this is still far from the only scenario.
While less exciting for headlines, there are at least a few other possibilities.
One is that even as the police have an array of top suspects in their crosshairs, including: former Netanyahu chief of staff David Sharan, former deputy National Security Council chief Avriel Bar Yosef, former Israel Navy chief Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom and others, they still want help to slam the cases shut.
Another is that some current minister is in their cross- hairs, but they need someone to incriminate the minister to take them down. One could debate whether such a person is more senior than Shimron in closeness to Netanyahu. But from some viewpoints, a key minister would be seen as a bigger fish.
Finally, it is possible that the bigger fish they want Shimron’s help to get is not more senior in any formal sense but is a key piece in the overall scheme, such as a mastermind behind the bribery scheme.
For the police, removing the “cancer” of such a mastermind, whatever his title and closeness to the prime minister, could be a higher priority than prosecuting Shimron.
None of this means that Netanyahu is not the big fish the police are after, and Shimron’s refusal to date does not mean he will not turn later - see again Zaken and Olmert.
But if Shimron thinks he might turn at any point, he should remember that Zaken could have gotten a deal with no jail time pretrial, and that her late agreement to a deal after having gone through almost all of the legal proceedings led to a less-sweet deal with an 11-month jail sentence.