Wrap up investigations

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour the Magshimim Forest together with their sons Yair (right) and Avner in 2016. (GPO) (photo credit: GPO)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour the Magshimim Forest together with their sons Yair (right) and Avner in 2016. (GPO)
(photo credit: GPO)
On Thursday, a senior police official told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, is suspected of bribery in Case 4000. Police later leaked that their son Yair is also a suspect.
Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla Affair, involves allegations that the prime minister ordered preferential treatment for Bezeq in exchange for positive media coverage by the Walla media outlet. Tycoon Shaul Elovitch owned both companies.
Police are investigating whether Sara and Yair acted as Netanyahu’s emissaries to Elovitch, his wife, Iris, and Walla’s then-director-general Ilan Yehoshua to persuade them to have Walla favor the prime minister. In addition, reports have alluded to Sara Netanyahu assisting in pushing Walla to cover the prime minister more positively, even potentially and implicitly threatening Walla at certain points for negative coverage.
This is earth-shattering and unprecedented news. Israel has had investigations in the past against prime ministers, and even one who went to jail. What is new now is that police suspect that the prime minister took a bribe, as well as his wife and son. All in the same case.
News that Sara is also a suspect came in a side comment, at a hearing about the status of property that the police seized from the Elovitch family as part of the investigation. Later, news emerged that police are also investigating whether Yair was also involved.
These are serious allegations, not the kind that are leveled everyday against the prime minister and his family. Nevertheless, the police representative told the court that the investigation will likely only be completed in the second half of 2019. Then, the material will be transferred to the attorney-general who is expected to take time making a decision on whether to indict the prime minister, his wife and son.
This situation is intolerable, and it is imperative that the police wrap up their investigation within the next few months. The police have been investigating the prime minister for the last two years. The thought that this investigation will continue for another 18 months is outrageous.
While it is understandable that the police need time to conduct their investigation, there should also be limits, particularly when the investigation is against the occupant of the country’s highest political office. If the prime minister is a criminal, then justice should be served swiftly and he should be removed from office as soon as possible.
If, on the other hand, there is a chance the case will be closed without an indictment, then this is an unfair legal intervention against the country’s prime minister. In addition, the investigation undermines the prime minister’s ability to continue doing his job and diverts his attention away from what should be most important – running the country.
This is also unfair to Israeli citizens. For the last few weeks, there has been speculation that Netanyahu will move up elections so he can capitalize on his current high numbers in the polls before a decision is made on his investigations.
Politically, this makes sense. He would want to get reelected before an indictment and then tell his new coalition partners that they cannot pull out so soon after a new election. The people, he will be able to say, have chosen him despite knowing that an indictment was likely. This could keep the next coalition together until a verdict is handed down, and possible even longer.
For the country though, this is not right. For too long, Israel has suffered from political instability and governments that rarely completed a full term. This meant that long-term planning was almost impossible in these government since after ministers planned and strategized, within a few years the government fell and those same plans could not be implemented.
We would like to believe that police investigations into allegations against Netanyahu are not politically motivated but are a sign of the strength of Israel’s democracy. On the other hand, they cannot go on indefinitely and at some point the attorney general will need to make a decision. The time is now.