Netanyahu likely to be questioned in submarine case

Law enforcement battling over framing it

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the Knesset, 31 January, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the Knesset, 31 January, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Is prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu going to be questioned in the Case 3000 Submarine Affair or not?
Is it going to be under caution as a suspect or as a mere fact witness?
What is true and what is fake news of the flood of reports on this topic?
The Jerusalem Post has learned that Netanyahu will very likely be questioned, at the very least as a fact witness, sometime in the next month or so.
Whether he will remain a fact witness or become a suspect is anyone’s guess, though the Attorney-General’s Office has done all it can to waive off any declaration of the prime minister as a suspect before he makes a formal decision on that.
Part of the answer to that question also ties into the question of what is fact and what is fiction in recent news reports on the issue.
Several media reports this week and last week have talked about Netanyahu possibly being questioned and possibly as a suspect, or alternately that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit was blocking the police from questioning Netanyahu in this case.
This last bit was what finally brought out an unusually harsh statement from Mandelblit’s office on Tuesday and in a speech he gave Wednesday night calling portions of Yediot Aharonot’s reports this week on the issue “absolutely false.”
The attorney-general said that he had not even been formally asked to approve the questioning of Netanyahu – though for those who know the process, there are informal discussions long before a formal request is made.
Still, Netanyahu’s office jumped on Mandelblit’s accusation of Yediot as issuing a false report, as proof that all of the report and all similar reports were definitively fake news.
However, the “absolutely false” accusation was only part of Mandelblit’s statement.
Read carefully, Mandelblit did not deny much of the rest of Yediot’s report, while he did characterize it as either exaggerated or taken out of context.
Yediot reported that state witness Miki Ganor connected Netanyahu to the case.
According to the report, Ganor told police that Netanyahu lawyer and confidante David Shomron had told Ganor that he would discuss with Netanyahu aspects of where he could lend support to the plan to buy German submarines.
Reportedly, Ganor and Shomron even developed code words for referring to Netanyahu – a code that Ganor helped the police break.
This new level of detail was hard for Mandelblit to completely deny, even as he disputed how it was presented by Yediot.
How to think about this report and the difference between how some police and prosecutors approach such issues versus how others, like Mandelblit, approach such issues explains the battle over framing the next stage of this case where Netanyahu will likely be questioned.
If you were looking for any kind of connection to the prime minister and had believed for a long time that he had to be involved because so many of his close advisers allegedly were, then Ganor’s new evidence is a smoking gun for questioning Netanyahu, and not just as a witness, but as a suspect.
If you are unwilling to bring a criminal cloud over a prime minister short of a direct allegation against him that would have a strong chance of holding up in court – Ganor’s evidence adds little.
It’s hearsay based on hearsay. Ganor said that Shomron said that he would meet with Netanyahu, but with no direct court-admissible evidence that Shomron met with Netanyahu about it and that the prime minister chose to get involved.
All of the Netanyahu advisers in the world could be involved, but if all of them stand as a wall in defending Netanyahu, then that also does not help as evidence in court.
It has been clear for some time that some members of law enforcement believe Netanyahu should be treated as a suspect and have been leaking information to bring that about.
It has been equally clear that Mandelblit is willing to proceed, but averse to criminally investigating the prime minister without air tight evidence above the standard that others might require.
The tension between the sides is playing out on the front pages of newspapers. In the near future when Netanyahu is, presumably, questioned, the fight will heat up to a whole new level as the battle over whether he will become a suspect or not begins in earnest.