Netanyahu to be acquitted, Smotrich said in press conference

Netanyahu will be acquitted from accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, MK Bezalel Smotruch said in a press conference on Tuesday.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu will be acquitted from accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for which he is currently standing trial, Religious Zionism Party (RZP) leader MK Bezalel Smotrich said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Smotrich made the comment during a press conference in which he and party member MK Simcha Rothman presented their plan for "restarting" Israel's judicial system. The plan includes canceling the fraud and breach of trust offense, but this will not apply to Netanyahu, Smotrich said.

"We will ensure in the law [that the trial will not be canceled], in order not to give the Left and the media a reason to reject the plan and focus only on Netanyahu," he said.

"A second reason is that we have an interest that the trial continue, because Netanyahu will be acquitted, and along the way, we will reveal the corruption in the legal system," he said.  

Smotrich said in response to a question by the Jerusalem Post that the law will not include Netanyahu's personal case, but will include a clause to that effect, such as a provision that on this point the plan will only come into effect for trials that have not begun yet.

 OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset last week. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset last week. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The Likud put out a similar statement earlier on Tuesday.

"Smotrich's proposal regarding the legal issues will not apply retroactively and will not affect the procedures against Netanyahu, which in any case are collapsing in court," the Likud said in a statement.

Smotrich denied any coordination with the Likud on the issue.

Four main categories in "Law and Justice" plan

The party's plan, called "Law and Justice," included four main categories:

First, a reform in the Attorney General and State Attorney's offices, including splitting the roles of the attorney general into three – a legal advisor to the government, a Chief Prosecutor and a legal representative for the government in court.

Second, a section titled "Creating Correct Balances," including changing the makeup of the nine-person Judicial Selection Committee in order to give more power to the Knesset: Four representatives of the coalition, two from the opposition, and one judge from each o the three levels of Israel's court system. The current makeup includes the Justice Minister and one other representative of the government, two from the Knesset (one coalition, the other opposition), three High Court justices ( one of them the Chief Justice), and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association.

This section also calls for a bill that the Knesset can re-legislate laws that were overruled by the High Court with a regular majority of 61. These laws will apply for four years, after which the Knesset may turn them into permanent law.

The third section is called "Strengthening the Principle of Separation of Powers," and includes a "French Law" that bars the investigation and indictment of an acting minister, including the prime minister, in matters that relate to their role in government.

The fourth section, titled "Miscellaneous," includes dismantling the Advisory Committee for the Appointment of Senior Civil Service Officials, making membership in Israel's Bar Association voluntary for lawyers, instead of mandatory, and more.

"Reforming the justice system is not only important for people living in Israel today, but also for people living abroad, who look at our justice system and ask why Israel's justice system and governability just do not function," Rothman said in English at the end of the press conference. "We need to fix it in order to have a stable government, and a stable justice system for anyone living here or planning on making Aliyah," he said.

Politicians from the Center-Left commented on the plan:

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar wrote on Twitter, "The plan to politicize the justice system and block the ability to fight governmental corruption does not serve Israel's interest."

The National Unity Party said in a statement, "Smotrich and Rothman are Netanyahu's hitmen, whose goal is to dismantle the justice system and destroy democracy."

Meretz leader Zehava Galon said: "Smotrich effectively is laying the sword on the neck of Israel's democracy. This is not an empty threat. His pistol is locked and loaded."

Yesh Atid wrote on Twitter, "After convicted terrorist Ben Gvir and Smotrich the draft-dodger want to lead the military and police, now they are announcing publicly that their plan is to cancel the separation of powers, and the de-facto destruction of Israeli democracy."