PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU consults with Avichai Mandelblit..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers were the ones who came up with the idea to set up and tape Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes in discussions about the future of his paper and Israel Hayom, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
While this could be Netanyahu’s defense, allowing him to claim that he was merely following legal advice, it also means that the prime minister’s lawyers themselves could be under the gun and could become witnesses in the case.
Mozes was questioned for the fifth time by the Lahav 443 anti-corruption unit regarding his part in Case 2000, according to a report by Haaretz.
Case 2000 involves taped conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes, in which the two men allegedly attempted to negotiate sympathetic coverage of the prime minister in return for the weakening of Yediot competitor Israel Hayom. Netanyahu is expected to be questioned again later this week.
Investigators questioned the prime minister under caution several times in January over his alleged involvement in two cases: Case 2000 and Case 1000, the latter of which deals with allegations that Netanyahu received illegal gifts from businessmen – in particular from Rehovot-born international movie mogul Arnon Milchan.
Channel 2 also reported that it was revealed that former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has testified in Case 3000, reportedly referring to the so-called “submarine affair.”
Ya’alon has reportedly testified about the fraudulent representation allegedly made by suspects in the case – presumably Netanyahu’s lawyer and confidante David Shimron, and not Ya’alon – to the German submarine manufacturer; the negotiations regarding the purchase of three submarines carried out behind his back; and the purchase of two anti-submarine ships without advance notice to allow Ya’alon to perform standard preparatory work.
Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect in Case 3000, though criminal suspicions against Shimron are politically damaging to him.
The submarine affair reportedly involves questions of whether Shimron broke the law in using his connections to Netanyahu to gain legal work, including falsely representing himself to the German submarine manufacturer and doing end-runs around Ya’alon and the normal approval process.
There have also been questions as to whether Netanyahu knew about Shimron’s actions and could be criminally liable; so far, no evidence has been produced to support that, and Netanyahu has not been criminally questioned in that matter.
In addition, the Channel 2 report noted that Netanyahu is expected to be interrogated by police in the near future for a third time, and that the recently covered Case 4000 has no connection to him at all. Previously, it was unknown what was being investigated in Case 4000 and what connection there might be to Netanyahu.
Following the rare statement on Monday about attempts to defame senior police officers involved with the investigations into the prime minister, Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich sent a clear message on Tuesday to all of those who question the integrity of the officers and try to sabotage the investigation. “My duty is to empower every factor that is relevant to the law enforcement system. I am a part of that system. On my watch, no one will harm police independence to do what it needs according to the law,” he said.
The police chief, who spoke on Tuesday at the Muni Expo innovation fair at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, added: “We empower those officers.
They are doing a clean, honest and professional job, and that is their duty.
This is why they were recruited to the police and were appointed to those positions... they are doing it with integrity and incorruptibility.”
Alsheich addressed the people who spread rumors against the officers investigating Netanyahu: “There are harassments of senior police officers from the investigations department. I don’t know who they are [the people harassing them] and I don’t know who is behind them. Each and every one can interpret it as they wish.”
MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), a former senior police officer, said that these kinds of threats should be a wake-up call for every Israeli who honors the rule of law.
“Whoever questions the work of the investigators in the Israeli police is doing something wrong and unjustified.
They would not [be able to] weaken their work,” said Levy. “These are professional investigators. There are decent and moral people. I am sure that the commissioner was telling the truth when he said that they [are] investigating the prime minister in an honest, fearless and professional way.”Alon Hachmon/Maariv contributed to this story.