The entire media reported that Tuesday would be a major showdown between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the police over testimony of the state’s star witness and former close Netanyahu adviser, Nir Hefetz.
The entire media was wrong.
It turns out – after almost a year and a half of investigating – that Netanyahu was finally questioned by police – not in Case 4000, the “Bezeq Affair,” but in Case 3000, the “Submarines Affair.”
Of the four cases threatening Netanyahu’s premiership, Case 3000 has become the forgotten stepchild.
The general public can be excused for not remembering this case, as it has faded from the headlines since late January.
In the Submarines Affair, Miki Ganor, Thyssen Krupp’s sales representative in Israel, as well as other top Israeli defense officials and top aides to Netanyahu allegedly perpetrated fraud and skimmed off the top in a deal for Israel to buy nuclear submarines from the German company.
Accused in the massive fraud are Netanyahu’s lawyer and confidante, David Shimron; his top personal foreign envoy Yitzhak Molcho; his former chief-of-staff David Sharan; his deputy national security adviser Avriel Bar-Yosef; and former navy chief Eliezer Marom.
This means that, aside from Netanyahu, this is still a massive case; in normal times it would be the main focus of the media’s legal coverage.
But these are not normal times.
In January, after Att.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit had maintained for an extended period that Netanyahu was not a suspect – despite continuous police and media pressure to question him as a suspect – The Jerusalem Post
learned that it had finally become inevitable that the prime minister would at least be questioned in the case
, likely within weeks.
At the time, the information obtained by the Post
even left open the possibility that Netanyahu might be questioned as an actual suspect in Case 3000.
The general rationale for treating Netanyahu as a suspect, aside from the fact that so many of his top aides are suspects, is that Ganor stated that Shimron said Netanyahu would help with the scheme.
This allegation was essentially hearsay based on hearsay, but along with pressure from the police and everything else, questioning Netanyahu as a suspect in Case 3000 appeared to be a real possibility.
It still might be, but the Post
received indications this week that Case 3000 is off of Mandelblit’s radar in terms of targeting Netanyahu as a suspect – it just isn’t a priority anymore.
Why that is, brings us back to Case 4000 – the “Bezeq Affair” – and Nir Hefetz.
In Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of changing telecommunications policy to favor Bezeq over its competitors in exchange for positive media coverage from the Walla media outlet – with both Bezeq and Walla owned by tycoon Shaul Elovitch.
This case did not exist in its current form back in January.
Case 4000 – the overwhelmingly most serious legal threat to Netanyahu – was not broken open until mid-February.
It appears that when the police realized then what they had against Netanyahu in Case 4000 (Bezeq), they may have dropped their pressure on Mandelblit to treat him as a suspect in Case 3000 (submarines), where the evidence was much weaker against him, no matter what would happen.
In any event, if the police believe Netanyahu must be removed from office for corruption, they only need to remove him once – and Case 4000 is a much better vehicle for doing so than Case 3000 could ever be.
The police may have been hoping to get Shimron, Molcho or Sharan to turn state’s witness against Netanyahu about the submarines, but they didn’t have to – they got Hefetz and another top Netanyahu adviser and official, Shlomo Filber, to quickly turn against him regarding Bezeq.
Suddenly, the Post had learned that it was viewed as much more pressing to question Netanyahu about Case 4000, which was carried out multiple times at breakneck speed. Questioning him as a fact witness in Case 3000 was put off indefinitely – until Tuesday of this week.
And so on Tuesday, Netanyahu was finally questioned about Case 3000 as a mere fact witness, checking a box that no longer matters to most of the parties involved.
It does not mean that Netanyahu is out of the woods regarding Case 3000 – and the case may still bring down some hugely powerful officials.
But in the meantime, Case 3000, as far as Netanyahu is concerned, is no longer a priority. The real main event will take place when the prime minister must confront the accusations against him by Hefetz and Filber in the next round of Case 4000 questioning.