Netanyahu trial: Court hearing PM’s motion to dismiss corruption charges

The state prosecution on Thursday night requested that the court reject the defendants’ motions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Lawyers Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad arrive to the District Court in Jerusalem for a court hearing as part of the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on December 1, 2020. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Lawyers Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad arrive to the District Court in Jerusalem for a court hearing as part of the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on December 1, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday heard arguments from the lawyers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a key hearing in which they moved to dismiss his public corruption trial without the need to call witnesses.
One point which clearly disturbed Judges Mosh Bar Am and Oded Shoham was the claim of Netanyahu’s lawyers, Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad, that the evidence listed in the various cases was too non-specific for them to properly defend.
The defense argued that for each alleged illegal gift or illegal act of media bribery, the exact time and date and exactly how it was connected to other illegal actions must be shown.
Bar Am and Shoham both appeared sympathetic to these arguments but it was unclear how presiding judge Rivkah Friedman-Feldman viewed the dispute.
The prosecution responded to the defense’s challenge, saying that they had given extensive specific details, but that at a certain point the indictment is a road map for a trial, and that they do not need to provide the level of detail that the defense is asking for before witnesses are called.
In addition, the prosecution said that regarding Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair, they know what gifts were given, their value and a general period of years when they were given, but they do not have exact dates.
If the court requires the prosecution to give further details at this pretrial stage, it could delay the calling of witnesses, currently set for February, until March or possibly later.
Another major issue the sides fought over was what the prosecution must prove to convict Netanyahu of media bribery in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair.
The defense said that the prosecution must show how each individual claim of media interference was illegal and problematic.
By contrast, prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh said they need only prove a critical mass of unusual requests from Netanyahu and his aides.
These requests would show a general level of control and interference in the Walla media outlet that goes beyond standard negotiations between the press and politicians over access for coverage.
Hadad tried to restore Netanyahu’s claim of parliamentary immunity.
Rejecting claims that the removal of his parliamentary immunity was done improperly, the prosecution noted that Netanyahu himself had withdrawn his claim of immunity.
They also drew attention to the unexplained passage of almost a year since that time before Netanyahu suddenly decided to raise the issue now.
The prosecution rejected his substantive immunity claim that he undertook actions discussed in the indictment in his capacity serving the state, saying his immunity does not permit him to simply violate laws such as by committing bribery and fraud.
Friedman-Feldman pressed Hadad about how Netanyahu could try to claim immunity, having withdrawn his claim previously.
Hadad said that the public statement withdrawing the claim at the time was a political statement and did not prevent him from raising the issue as a legal claim before the courts.
He added that Netanyahu was in an awkward predicament at the time, since the events transpired while he was at a historic press conference at the White House.
Regarding one of Netanyahu’s central claims that police systematically bullied witnesses to concoct lies to take him down, the sides agreed that the issue would be decided by the court only after the prosecution concludes its case, but before the defense would need to call witnesses.
The prosecution also rejected the claims of Netanyahu and of Bezeq-Walla owner Shaul Elovitch, and his wife, Iris, that there had been arbitrary enforcement against them.
The defense lawyers criticized the prosecution for failing to indict Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua, and said this showed they were only interested in toppling Netanyahu and some others around him, but not getting to the truth.
They also demanded to know when the prosecution would make a final decision about whether it would indict the entities involved in the Bezeq-Walla Affair.
Previously, the prosecution has indicated it probably will not indict the entities, but Tirosh said a final decision on this possibly could be made in the coming days.
If the prosecution does not indict entities, as expected, the defense will add this to their claims that their clients are being arbitrarily prosecuted.
It is unclear when the court will rule on the motions to dismiss, but it could be soon, or at least before the final pretrial hearing set for January 13, which Netanyahu is due to attend.
Meanwhile, Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker recently succeeded in getting Netanyahu to disclose another batch of his communications with then Israel Hayom chief editor Amos Regev.
The records were only published after Netanyahu lost his fight in the High Court of Justice to withhold the records.
According to the records, Netanyahu held 130 telephone calls with Regev during a two year period between 2015-2017.
Drucker wanted to show the unnaturally close relationship between Netanyahu and those running Yisrael Hayom to emphasize allegations that it systematically biases coverage in his favor.
Netanyahu first lost before the High Court in August 2017 about trying to prevent Drucker from acquiring similar records covering the 2012-2015 period.
Records of those calls also showed an extraordinary volume of communications between the prime minister and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson.
One example was when Netanyahu spoke to Regev on February 23, 2015, just as the nuclear deal with Iran was forming and Israel Hayom’s lead headline the next day slammed the deal.
Drucker has wanted to also show how Netanyahu interacted with Yisrael Hayom to show a pattern of conduct for how he might also be trying to control  the coverage of other media outlets, such as in the pending criminal cases against him.