Playing politics will not help Netanyahu in court - analysis

Sunday’s hearing was a reminder that the courtroom is a no spin zone and that winning a court case is a different game than playing politics.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a mask, stands inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court May 24, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a mask, stands inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court May 24, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his co-defendants scored a host of short-term points, embarrassing the prosecution at Sunday’s hearing for inconsistency and occasional incompetence in failing to turn over certain documents.
But they also slammed into a brick wall that Netanyahu has been mostly able to avoid, the judges.
Judges in courts could not care less about emotional appeals and claims which are not based on standard legal principles.
Even when you win a cute point, they are ready to quickly move on if the point you won cannot legally impact the broader issues which will influence the trial verdict.
That was how things went at Sunday’s hearing.
It seems the prosecution, either by misjudgment or incompetence withheld a document in which one of the state’s key witnesses, former top Netanyahu aide Shlomo Filber, poured cold water on law enforcement’s attempts to establish a bribery case against Netanyahu.
This is embarrassing for the prosecution. To those not following the case’s nuances, it sounds like a home run for the defense.
But for those following closely, it is much less decisive. The fact is Filber tweeted a number of times against any idea that Netanyahu had committed bribery so this private phone conversation, which the prosecution recorded with an eavesdropping warrant, does not really add anything.
It adds even less, because, like all of the above-mentioned tweets, these denials came before Filber turned state’s witness and offered a comprehensive explanation about why he had been lying for years to protect Netanyahu. He could, he said, no longer live with his conscience (and wanted to avoid jail) if he continued to do so.
Filber said that once he told the truth about helping Netanyahu with the alleged media bribery scheme a cloud lifted, and he could suddenly see clearly again.
So getting this new document might help the defense with party supporters, but not for the verdict. This was clear from the judges’ reactions.  They mostly wanted to move on to finish the long day of arguments.
Another example was of documents related to former Netanyahu aide and current state’s witness Nir Hefetz.
One of Netanyahu’s main defenses against Hefetz was that police allegedly extorted his cooperation by confronting him with a woman, not his wife, with whom  he was romantically involved.
This argument along with a range of others about inconsistencies in Hefetz’s testimony could actually seriously jeopardize the case against Netanyahu.

But the fact that the prosecution has withheld the testimony of the woman from the defense, as long as they are not using it to prove anything against Netanyahu, the argument is not likely to influence the court’s verdict. However, Netanyahu’s team can continue to revisit the issue of questionable police ethics to try to sway public opinion.
Sunday’s hearing was a reminder that the courtroom is a no spin zone and that winning a court case is a different game than playing politics.