Analysis: Netanyahu’s legal straw man

The prime minister’s challenge also misunderstands the purpose of the confrontation. It is not to speak to the public. It is to gather evidence which can later be admissible in court.

January 7, 2019 22:10
2 minute read.
benjamin netanyahu

Netanyahu speaks at a coalition faction meeting. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to be allowed to confront the state’s witnesses against him in his three public corruption cases – aired on national television no less – is one of the most rickety straw men ever presented.

Put simply, while Netanyahu, just as any other suspect, has a right to refuse such a confrontation, there is no legal obligation to permit it. Sometimes police do, and sometimes they do not.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, a center-left politician, did not get to confront his accusers, so there is no argument here of an anti-right-wing bias.

Usually police carry out a confrontation if they feel they need it to help prove their case, or if they are struggling who to believe where there are no documents and it is just he said-she said.

Rape or sexual assault cases are an example for a confrontation to see if the accuser-victim or suspect may fold under pressure when their stories are contradictory.

When they do not do so, it usually means they feel that they can prove their case without the confrontation.

Obviously, they would never have a confrontation on live television, as if police probes are reality television, which would invariably taint the value of one.

The prime minister’s challenge also misunderstands the purpose of the confrontation.

It is not to speak to the public. It is to gather evidence which can later be admissible in court.

 In the prime minister’s public corruption cases, there is almost no he said-she said without documentary proof.

Netanyahu admits all of the background damning facts against him, but as his legal defense frames the facts as incapable of proving him guilty because he says that the prosecution cannot prove he had criminal intent.

For example, in Case 4000, he does not dispute the specific positive articles Walla! wrote about him or that Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch had a big payday from the Yes merger.

He challenges whether this can prove bribery, as opposed to receiving envelopes stuffed with money like Olmert.

But there was another defendant in Olmert’s Holyland trial, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, who received no money – only his charity Yad Sarah, a charity which everyone praises, which received funds at his request.

This was ruled sufficient for a bribery conviction because Lupolianski got a political boost from showing he could promote Yad Sarah. The prosecution is arguing that this is not so different from a political boost Netanyahu got from artificial positive coverage on Walla!.
By the way, if Netanyahu fights the good legal fight, he will get to confront the state’s witnesses against him in court.

If Netanyahu has one potential fair argument here, it is that he will not get to confront the state’s witnesses publicly before Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announces his intent to indict in February.

Then again, after over a dozen interrogations, he knows what they accused him of, and if he wanted to, could put out a dozens of pages in response to their accusations on each issue.

The problem with a court of law as opposed to live reality television is that even the most powerful and confident men in the world, of which Olmert was one, cannot through force of personality, undo the legal rules of evidence which govern their fate.    

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