Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smiles as he attends the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, in Jerusalem November 19, 2018.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Channel 10 are engaging in a battle over the corruption probes with key decisions from police and prosecution looming in the near future.
From Sunday through Tuesday this week, Netanyahu sent out a statement with his most comprehensive and detailed defense in Case 4000 to date. Channel 10 aired multiple bombshell stories against the prime minister, and The Jerusalem Post spoke to multiple sources covering the broad spectrum of the debate over the cases.
The police have already recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery
in Cases 1000 and 2000 and are expected to do the same with Case 4000.
The Jerusalem Post reported in June that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit was likely, by early spring 2019, to move to indict the prime minister for bribery in Case 4000, and also may do so in Case 1000.
Case 2000 was still borderline at the time.
But Channel 10 reported Tuesday night that Economic Crimes Division Director Liat Ben-Ari, the chief prosecutor who convicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Holyland case, was also recommending an indictment for bribery in Case 2000.
Case 1000 is known as the Illegal Gifts Affair, Case 2000 as the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair and Case 4000 as the Bezeq-Walla Affair.
On Sunday night, Channel 10 reported that Ben-Ari was moving toward a bribery indictment against the prime minister
in Case 1000.
From 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday night, Channel 10’s investigatory program Makor presented a wide range of claims that Netanyahu had cut a deal with Bezeq and Walla online news site owner, Shaul Elovitch of positive government treatment of Bezeq for positive news coverage.
The Makor program specifically contained a large number of interviews with former Walla editors and reporters about interventions by Elovitch, CEO Ilan Yeshua, editor Avi Alkalai, and then-Netanyahu spokesman now state’s witness Nir Hefetz, to slant the coverage in favor of Netanyahu.
Moreover, it detailed instances in which the posting of articles was delayed, were removed from the site or were never posted due to opposition from the Netanyahu camp.
Alkalai made it clear that the orders came from the Netanyahu family, including Sara Netanyahu, even if sometimes there was a string of people separating him from communicating directly with Walla personnel.
Responding to the Makor program, Netanyahu issued at close to 11 p.m. Monday night his most detailed statement to date attacking the arguments against him in Case 4000.
Going far beyond his mantra of “there was nothing and there is nothing,” the statement started by arguing that the alleged benefits to Elovitch through a merger between Bezeq and the company Yes (where Elovitch also had certain ownership rights) were all approved by a series of non-political officials as an appropriate policy decision.
His statement noted that Communications Ministry CEO Avi Berger was not fired by Netanyahu for several months.
Furthermore, the statement said that when Berger was fired as part of a new coalition, several CEOs of other ministries were also fired as part of a new governing coalition, and that no one has complained about others being fired.
Berger’s firing and replacement by Netanyahu loyalist and former campaign manager Shlomo Filber has been cited as a major sign of abuse of power that tilts policy toward Elovitch.
Filber denied all allegations against him and Netanyahu for an extended period, including an extensive campaign on Twitter which presented a counter-narrative, but eventually turned the state’s witness against Netanyahu and confessed to illegal activity on his behalf.
On Tuesday, the Post probed multiple sources with knowledge of the issues involved over the latest developments.
Some explained how a careful analysis of the reforms and approvals in the Communications Ministry showed that Netanyahu’s defenses fall apart upon careful scrutiny and reveal a picture of corruption.
Others on Netanyahu’s side claimed that many of the allegations have been piled on top of each other, but that when broken down by period, function and the persons involved, none can actually be traced back to Netanyahu, let alone to him committing a crime.
The Justice Ministry issued a statement late on Tuesday night that appears to circumscribe the impact of Ben-Ari’s reported decision on one hand, and denies reports that Deputy Attorney-General Amit Harrari had been assigned to file a counter-opinion.
The ministry said that a range of officials, including Harrari, would weigh in according to their own legal view – as was standard in such high profile cases – to give Mandelblit the maximum number of views to consider.
Regarding Tuesday night’s report about Case 2000, a Netanyahu spokesman tried to turn the fire back on Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid for his numerous meetings with newspaper owners and alleged attempts to harm Israel Hayom – of which Netanyahu is also accused.
Friday’s frontlines will include an extended comprehensive exploration of the issues.
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