(photo credit: REUTERS)
Each of the last five prime ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term, were investigated by the police while in office, yet only one – Ehud Olmert – was indicted and convicted. That means there is an 80% chance that the current investigation against Netanyahu will lead nowhere, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) said Monday.
Hanegbi rejected the notion that having the last five prime ministers investigated by the police was something for Israel to be ashamed of, saying instead at a press briefing with mostly foreign reporters organized by The Israel Project that this is “proof the country does not give discounts to its leaders.”
That Olmert is currently in jail, and former president Moshe Katzav only recently was released from prison, shows that the rule of law in the country is supreme, and that the state “does what it needs to fight corruption,” he said.
Sometimes, Hanegbi said, there is a “happy end” to the investigations of senior political officials, such as the two investigations against opposition head Isaac Herzog that did not lead to an indictment. Hanegbi noted that what differentiated the investigation of Herzog from that of Netanyahu, is that in the former there were no leaks or dramatic headlines
Hanegbi agreed with Netanyahu's assessment that the leaks of the current investigations against him were a politically motivated effort to unseat him. He pointed out that only four minutes of some four hours of tape of conversations between Netanyahu and Yediot Ahronot
publisher Arnon "Noni" Mozes were leaked.
“Nobody will doubt that the leaks are meant to embarrass him, humiliate him, and create public pressure on the law enforcement officials to take harsh decisions” regarding Netanyahu’s case, Hanegbi said.
Hangebi himself was on trial in the last decade for some four years for allegations of election bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He was acquitted in all those cases, but found guilty of perjury, an offense for which there was found to be moral turpitude. As a result he suspended himself from the Knesset in 2010. He returned to the Knesset as a Likud MK in 2013.
Hanegbi said that it is obviously not easy for a prime minister to function under the shadow of police investigations.
“That is no secret,” he said. “It is something that takes part of your time and mental energy for legal survival. But I think this (Netanyahu's) investigation will be very short.”
Hanegbi said there are no factual disputes in the current investigations against Netanyahu, rather it is a matter of legal interpretation, and whether in either of the cases against the prime minister – the case of receiving cigars and champagne as gifts, or his discussions with Yediot Ahronot
publisher Mozes – there was “criminal intent.”
Hanegbi said that he, as well as the Likud faction, believes Netanyahu when he says “there will be nothing, because there is nothing.” Noting that he has known Netanyahu for some three decades, Hanegbi said, “I think he is an honest guy.”
Asked how he thought the investigations would impact on the diplomatic issues that Netanyahu is dealing with, Hanegbi said this would not “change his commitment to the country's security, which is his raison d'etre.”
Netanyahu, he said, is not going to “change his convictions because of the investigation in either direction: he will not become more hawkish, or suddenly give up his demands. I don't think this will have any impact.”