We will probably never know with absolute certainty what former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intent was regarding his three public corruption cases before the Jerusalem District Court.
The public will have to settle for the best the three-judge panel can do in sifting through and weighing the many contradictory pieces of evidence for and against conviction.
But in his recently released book, Netanyahu gives a very clear and simple narrative: the media was out to get him for decades, he tried to balance the media bias against him, and the media and his other enemies tried to bring him down by abusing the law enforcement process and the courts.
In his defense, law enforcement allowed an unforgivable number of leaks to the media about the cases before those details were supposed to be made public.
Also, in Netanyahu’s defense, many cases against him over the years have fallen apart before reaching the courtroom, or cases against him or his wife, Sara, have ended up being much more minor than some of the original extravagant allegations in the media.
All of that said, Netanyahu does not do himself any favors in credibility with the number of issues he leaves out of his retelling of his legal troubles narrative.
The book seems to characterize Sara Netanyahu’s admission of guilt and plea deal in the Prepared Food Affair as something that was forced down her throat, when she had every right to litigate the issue.
He implies that Sara was a passive player who had no knowledge that some of her underlings were making bureaucratic errors in managing billing for large prepared-food dinners.
Netanyahu ignores the narrative that Sara was accused of and partially confessed to, which put her at the top of the pyramid, giving orders to carry out fraudulent record-keeping, and spending large amounts of state money on prepared food despite having a full-time paid-for official chef.
Moving toward indictment
Regarding the timing of moving toward indicting him, Netanyahu blames the prosecution for making announcements during election season.
Yet, the unequivocal fact is that then-state prosecutor Shai Nitzan announced in November 2018 that they were close to a decision regarding Netanyahu, and the former prime minister chose on his own to seek early elections shortly after that announcement. Meaning, Netanyahu forced the prosecution’s decision to happen during election season.
Likewise, Netanyahu blames then-attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit for filing the final indictment with the courts during election season and while he was abroad.
Yet, that timing came about due to Netanyahu fighting for months to delay the indictment with an immunity claim. The day he dropped his immunity claim was the day the prosecution filed – again the timing was determined by him.
Netanyahu fairly slams those political enemies of his who promised he would be indicted in Case 3000, the Submarines Affair, with misleading the public. Not only was he never indicted, but he was never declared a suspect.
However, he pretends that the affair went nowhere, leaving out that though he was not indicted, several of his former top aides were. He may not have been indicted, but enough of his close aides were that there are legitimate questions about what he knew about their alleged bribery scheme, and if he did not know, is it a problem that he was hoodwinked.
Addressing the three cases against him, he takes the “high ground,” saying that with the case ongoing before the court, he cannot comment.
Except that the prosecution and his defense lawyers have been battling out the cases publicly now for two years.
There are very few secrets left.
So really what he means is he would rather not engage the details of the cases because even if he is acquitted, and he may very well be, he does not come off well.
Moreover, the most likely scenario at this point is that he will neither go to jail nor be completely acquitted, but rather acquitted of bribery, while being convicted of minor crimes, which may not impact his political career.
But talking your way through minor convictions is not a great public relations winning strategy either. Many of those who are stalwart Netanyahu supporters are not necessarily happy about his legal situation, as much as they believe his ability to keep the country safe should decide their vote more than anything else.
It seems then that his discussion of his legal situation was more to check the box than to actually seriously address the allegations.
The one exception
Netanyahu gives a detailed account of the allegations against NSO Group’s Pegasus cellphone hacking program being used by the police against him.
That is certainly fair game.
Every newspaper in the country spent several weeks reporting on a wide variety of details regarding the police-Pegasus scandal.
The problem is that in the end, most of the scandal came to very little. The Jerusalem District Court pretty much ruled that any improper spying had little to no role in actually building the case against Netanyahu. The Mossad, headed by David Barnea, who was Netanyahu’s pick, reached the same rough conclusions.
He does not mention that as the end to the Pegasus story.
Netanyahu also does not mention that Pegasus began in the police under police chiefs that he appointed who, until his public corruption cases, did everything they could to shield him from political problems.
The former prime minister also makes no mention of offering to confess to minor crimes to get a plea deal this past January.
That deal was rejected by the state as being too lenient, but Netanyahu was ready to admit to breach of trust.
None of this is unique to Netanyahu
Other top Israeli politicians who have been accused or convicted of crimes have also been highly selective in recounting their legal woes.
Politicians who own up to acting improperly, let alone criminally, are a rare commodity these days.
In that sense, the key to reading the legal sections is to do some research beforehand so that you will know what is missing.