Alan Dershowitz: Not enough evidence to indict Netanyahu

Celebrity lawyer says all politicians negotiate with newspapers, relationship should not be criminalized; warns Trump Syria pullout a mistake, bad for US, world peace and Israel

Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, February 3, 2016. (John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu, via JTA)
Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, February 3, 2016. (John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu, via JTA)

Alan Dershowitz, a prominent law professor and champion of Israel, said he does not consider there to be enough evidence to convict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption over his alleged negotiations with a newspaper publisher for better coverage, and that this is the kind of thing that all politicians do anyway.

Police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted in three separate corruption cases, one of which, Case 2000, revolves around allegations that Netanyahu negotiated with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, for better coverage as part of a quid pro quo deal.

“There are is not enough proof of a criminal offense,” Dershowitz told Army Radio in an interview Thursday. “I think it is very dangerous to start indicting people based on negotiations with newspapers. That’s what politicians do.”

“To start interfering in the relationship between media and the government poses a tremendous danger to free speech and a tremendous danger to democracy,” he added.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in all the cases, and charges that he is the victim of a political witch hunt involving the media, the left and the police.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on December 24, 2018, confirming early elections. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Dershowitz also commented on US President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that he will pull out US ground forces from Syria, a move Israel fears will complicate its ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from deepening a military foothold in the war-torn country.

“Trump’s decision to pull American forces out of Syria is a serious mistake,” Dershowitz said. “Much of the blame lies with Barack Obama for his Syrian policy. American foreign policy in the last years, starting with [George W.] Bush, Obama, and Trump has not been very good, not good for America, for world peace, and for Israel.”

Commenting on Trump’s own situation, in which he is faced with allegations that he coordinated with Russia over the 2016 presidential elections and criticism of his brash style of leadership as too unorthodox, Dershowitz asserted that the president is better off than he would be as Israel’s prime minister.

“If he was the prime minister of Israel, his government would have fallen by now,” he said. “But under our Constitution impeachment requires a high crime and misdemeanor; it’s not just enough to be a bad president or an incompetent president. At the moment I don’t see either a high crime or a misdemeanor under the impeachment provision of the constitution.”

Looking ahead for Israel, Dershowitz predicted “the trajectory for the future is very positive, but a key… is for Israel to make a compromise peace with the Palestinians even if it requires difficult compromises, as the prime minister of Israel has said it would.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a State Control committee meeting in the Knesset on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Of the three cases in which Netanyahu is suspected of illegal activity, the one known as Case 4000 is considered by the State Prosecutor’s Office to be the most serious, according to Israeli television reports.

In that case, Netanyahu is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily newspaper, the Sheldon Adelson-backed freebie Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

The files are now with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who must decide whether to press charges against the prime minister.

Media reports Thursday said Netanyahu does not intend to resign from office if indicted by the attorney general — whether before or after the upcoming election — and not even during a criminal trial in which he is a defendant.

The prime minister was reported to have told his close associates in recent days that he believed Mandelblit “won’t dare” to announce charges against him before April 9’s general elections, the Israel Hayom daily reported.

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