Amid graft investigations, Netanyahu complains he is ‘attacked all the time’
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Amid graft investigations, Netanyahu complains he is ‘attacked all the time’

PM vows to 'tell the truth' about corruption probes, hails massive public support, a day after railing against police for recruiting state's witnesses

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara Netanyahu, responds to media questions after he visited the '3,000 years of history: Jews in Jerusalem' exhibit at United Nations headquarters, March 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara Netanyahu, responds to media questions after he visited the '3,000 years of history: Jews in Jerusalem' exhibit at United Nations headquarters, March 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained on Thursday that he and his wife Sara were being “attacked all the time,” continuing his blitz against police and Israeli media in light of the mounting corruption investigations against him and the recruitment of several state’s witnesses to testify against him.

“We are attacked all the time — every hour, every minute,” the prime minister told a reporter for Hadashot TV while standing next to his wife in New York after a meeting at the UN.

Netanyahu has been in the US for most of the week,  meeting with US President Donald Trump and speaking at the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby’s policy conference.

“The prime minister is also allowed to stand up for justice, and I won’t keep silent, I will tell the truth,” said Netanyahu, who vehemently denies allegations of bribery and deals for favorable media coverage.

“I will also tell the truth that is maybe inconvenient for people to hear, about the support — for me, my wife, my family — support at levels that I cannot remember,” he added. “Israeli citizens are giving me and my wife support en masse, not everyone, but en masse. They want justice.”

Earlier this week, a former Netanyahu family top media adviser, Nir Hefetz, became the third former close aide to the prime minister to agree to cooperate with police.

As part of the state’s witness agreement he signed, Hefetz, suspected of bribery in the case, was told that he would not serve prison time or pay a fine for his actions.

Former media adviser to the prime minister Nir Hefetz arrives for a remand hearing in Case 4000 at the Tel Aviv District Court, February 22, 2018. (Flash90)

He has promised to provide police with incriminating text messages and recordings of Netanyahu and his wife in several criminal cases, including the Bezeq probe, known as Case 4000, and the so-called Case 1000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu received gifts from businessmen in exchange for favors.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu ​​took to Facebook to lash out against investigators, ​accusing them of engaging in a conspiracy to bring him down that includes encouraging false testimony and illegally pressuring witnesses.

Taking aim at the practice of using state’s witnesses — suspects involved in a case who agree to give testimony implicating others of potentially more serious crimes in return for lighter punishment — Netanyahu said that innocent people are put under “intense pressure and told to lie” about false allegations.

“They take people whom they accuse of having committed some crime. They put them under custody, put them through horrors, and say to them, ‘Your life is over. Your family’s life is over. We will take nearly every thing from you, your freedom too. You want to be saved from all this? There is one way — to disgrace Netanyahu,’” the prime minister said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacks the police over the use of state’s witnesses in a video clip filmed from the US, March 7, 2018. (Screenshot)

“It doesn’t matter if you tell delusional lies, the main thing is that you disgrace Netanyahu,” he continued. Netanyahu, however, said the apparent need for a state’s witness proved that he was in fact innocent.

His comments were swiftly condemned by opposition leaders.

A day earlier, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich defended judicial officials’ deals with former aides to Netanyahu, saying state’s witnesses were more valuable for fighting corruption.

“I will repeat what the state prosecutor said — ‘State’s witnesses are one of the most important tools for preventing crime organizations and public corruption,’” Alsheich said, quoting State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. “They tell the full story, a stronger, stable, and [more] open testimony, of course backed up by other proof, greatly strengthens the case.”

Hefetz joins Shlomo Filber, the former director-general of the Communications Ministry and a longtime Netanyahu confidant, who also signed a deal last month to turn state’s witness and possibly incriminate the prime minister in the affair.

The so-called Case 4000 investigation involves suspicions that Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant fawning coverage to the Netanyahus in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting him financially.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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