Israel Police recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on bribery, fraud and breach of public trust charges on Sunday, in the corruption investigation known as Case 4000.
Police also recommended indicting Bezeq and Walla! owner Shaul Elovitch, his wife, Iris, and a range of other top Bezeq officials.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit gave his permission for the publication of the recommendations, and will make the final decision on whether to indict Netanyahu.
Sunday’s recommendation is another setback for Netanyahu’s legal woes, as police recommended in February that the prime minister be indicted for bribery and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000
“The police recommendations have no legal standing,” Netanyahu said in response to Sunday’s announcement. “But they are not surprising. I am sure that even in this case, the relevant authorities, after examining the matter, will reach the same conclusion: that there will be nothing because there was nothing.”
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich issued the recommendations on his last day in office – a parting shot in one of the most tense prime minister-police chief relationships in years.
There are two premises to the police recommendations in Case 4000 against Netanyahu.
The first premise is that Netanyahu fired Communications Ministry Director-General Avi Berger and hired his loyalist and ex-campaign manager, Shlomo Filber, to ensure a government policy improperly favored Elovitch’s interests in Bezeq.Filber has since turned state's witness against the prime minister
-a critical breakthrough in gathering evidence of the regulatory half of the bribery case.
The second premise is that in exchange for the positive treatment for Bezeq, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, directed Elovitch’s online news site Walla! to give him favorable coverage.
This was arranged through Elovitch, his wife, former top Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz, who turned state's witness against the prime minister
, and some of Elovitch’s top Walla! employees.
Hefetz’s turn as state’s witness was considered a critical turning point in building the media interference half of the bribery case.
According to the police, this constituted bribery as Netanyahu worked to set government policies that would increase monetary profits for Elovitch in exchange for positive media coverage.
The police recommendations on Sunday appeared to take the most severe view of the prime minister’s actions.
Even in terms of dating the bribery, whereas many news reports have discussed alleged Netanyahu-Elovitch interference with Walla! coverage since 2015, the police say that criminal interference dates back to 2012 and continued into last year.
The Post reported in June that Mandelblit was likely ready to file a bribery indictment against Netanyahu in Case 4000
,though his decision may not be handed down until early spring.
The only bright spot for the Netanyahu family was that Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, is not recommended for indictment due to insufficient evidence.
Both Sara and Yair Netanyahu were allegedly involved in campaigning to get Walla! to toe a certain line in media coverage of the Netanyahu family, but there was more evidence relating to Sara Netanyahu. Yair Netanyahu, though technically an adult, was likely let off on two arguments: he was likely not viewed as being as fully aware of the situation, or he might not have known the difference between a media campaign and a bribery-injected one.
A statement from police said that they questioned some 60 witnesses in 176 sessions and gathered massive amounts of documents and recordings, including from foreign countries. Hefetz reportedly taped the Netanyahu and Elovitch families frequently without their knowledge.
Other top officials whom the police recommended for indictment for a combination of bribery, fraud and breach of trust included: former top Bezeq official Amikam Sorer, former Bezeq CEO Stella Handler, Netanyahu and Elovitch family friend and Bonds CEO Ze’ev Rubinstein, Elovitch’s son, Or, and Eli Kamir.
Elovitch was also recommended to be indicted for obstruction of justice.
While the Bezeq-Walla! affair dates back to 2015, until February, Filber and Elovitch were the lead suspects. Only after Filber flipped against Netanyahu did the prime minister become the primary suspect.
Filber had been adamant for years that he had acted legally, but upon turning state’s witness, he admitted to deceiving the communications, finance and justice ministries about his activities to help Elovitch’s interests in Bezeq and with the Bezeq-Yes merger
all under order from Netanyahu. Filber also owned a large portion of Yes and is estimated to have benefited between NIS 680 million to more than NIS 1 billion.
This is the most important of the three police investigations against the prime minister, and has the potential to eventually bring down his government