Avichai Mandelblit and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
According to a Justice Ministry statement, there were two turning points leading to the case being closed. It was originally alleged that Nir Hefetz, a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, offered to secure the job for ex-judge Hila Gerstl if she agreed in advance to close criminal probes against Sara Netanyahu.
The first turning point came after Hefetz turned state’s witness in March 2017.
Even after Hefetz agreed to reveal everything to investigators – which has included key points against the prime minister in cases 1000, 2000 and 4000 – he stood by his story that neither he nor the prime minister had hatched a plot to bribe Gerstl with the job of attorney-general.
Rather, the picture which emerged from his testimony, along with Gerstl and middle-man Eli Kamir, was that Hefetz had tossed out the idea at least half as a joke in discussions initiated by Kamir and Gerstl.
In this narrative, Gerstl asked Kamir to contact Hefetz to find out if Netanyahu might support her candidacy for the job. When Kamir asked Hefetz, the spontaneous response he gave without speaking with Netanyahu was that Mandelblit, who eventually got the job, was their preferred candidate. However, he added that if Gerstl did something major, like agree to close the Sara Netanyahu cases, perhaps they would reconsider their position.
Hearing Kamir and Hefetz admit that there were discussions, but denying any real bribe was offered, Gerstl backed off her original accusations and said maybe the conversations had merely been inappropriate, but not an actual bribe.
With no charges to file against Netanyahu
, with Hefetz gaining immunity, and with Gerstl backing off, the ministry said there was no basis to proceed with an indictment.
The closing of the case also appears to be a way of cleaning house before Hefetz and the prosecution go to war with Netanyahu over cases 1000, 2000 and 4,000, expected within the next month.