The case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a long way to go before it sees the inside of an actual courtroom, if ever, but the press isn’t waiting around until then to start fighting over the facts.
Top stories on Thursday concentrate on the bribery, fraud and breach of trust allegations against the prime minister, with Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth poking holes in Netanyahu’s defense and Israel Hayom seizing on a Hadashot news report saying the prosecution is unimpressed with the police’s evidence.
“Netanyahu claims he worked against Milchan’s car deal — but actually benefited him,” Haaretz’s lead story reads.
The paper notes that Netanyahu did push a law as finance minister in 2003 that opened up the market for companies importing original car parts for carmakers in Israel, hurting Milchan’s Automotive Equipment Group as well as others involved in the same thing. But Milchan’s firm had an edge that allowed him to benefit from the law.
“AEG owned a company that also imported off-brand car parts, which competed with the original parts, and so it was benefited by it,” the paper reports.
Yedioth takes a wider look at all the problems with Netanyahu protesting his innocence, with a point by point fact check claiming to show “holes in the defense.”
“A closer look shows not a small number of his claims do not stand the test of reality,” the paper reports. While some of its points deal with actual allegations, others just throw shade his way, such as an entry on his claim that he did not make a deal to help Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes hamstring Israel Hayom.
“The prime minister admitted openly that he dragged the country into expensive elections in 2015 and endangered his political future to help the free daily owned by his friend and patron, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson,” the paper reports.
If Netanyahu risked his neck for Israel Hayom, Israel Hayom is showing it’s sticking with its best friend, continuing to defend him and going after the police and politicians who dare snitch.
The paper’s main headline “95 percent baked vs. iron-clad proof” sets the prosecution against the police, going off a TV report the night before.
“Is there a basis for the case against the prime minister? According to the police the answer is a definite yes, but it seems the prosecution thinks differently,” the paper reports.
Another headline quotes Netanyahu calling the allegations “full of holes like Swiss cheese,” and columnist Haim Shine goes after the police and the media, claiming that cops were trying to get the recommendations released by 7:59 p.m. on Tuesday so they would make the 8 o’clock news, proof of “the level of cooperation between police and the media.” And not just journalists.
“True it may not be nice to hear that the prime minister got gifts, but the extreme recommendations strengthened in the eyes of the public the idea that the police have turned into an emissary for Meni Naftali and Eldad Yaniv,” he writes, referring to two of Netanyahu’s most strident critics.
While the positions of some regarding Netanyahu are crystal clear, others are still trying to thread a line between sticking with their dear leader and not tying their fortunes to a sinking ship. Thus you have Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page leading with Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett castigating Netanyahu and Haaretz’s front page reporting that Bennett and Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon are sticking by Netanyahu.
Focusing on Bennett saying a leader can’t take gifts from a billionaire, Yedioth calls it the “first smidgen of criticism” from a coalition partner.
Haaretz, meanwhile, reports that Netanyahu’s “coalition partners have quickly gotten behind him.”
“Kahlon said yesterday, after deliberations, that he would not bring down the government, and Bennett joined him, though he leveled criticism over the things Netanyahu is suspected of doing,” the paper reports.
For the opposition, the choice is much clearer, and while Israel Hayom continues attacking Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, quoting a coalition member calling him a “rat,” it also prominently places a column by opposition leader Isaac Herzog urging Netanyahu to step down.
“The prime minister is entitled to a presumption of innocence and according to the letter of the law is not obligated to resign because of the police recommendations. But publicly, he is in an untenable situation. Public faith in him has been dealt a serious blow and a dark cloud is hanging over his head,” Herzog writes.
Perhaps just as bizarre as Israel Hayom running a column by a political rival telling Netanyahu to leave office is Haaretz running an op-ed by lefty extraordinaire Gideon Levy cautioning against getting too excited about the apparent imminent end of Netanyahu’s career. But no, that does not mean he is turning into Netanyahu’s best bud.
“Netanyahu has displayed disgusting corruption alongside the great state corruption, which has been perpetrated by almost every Israeli prime minister in recent decades. His heirs may steer clear of cigars and champagne, but none of them can fix Israel’s great corruption – the institutionalized state corruption arising from 50 years of occupation,” he writes. “So the rejoicing over Netanyahu’s demise is premature, and more to the point exaggerated. An Israel led by Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar or Yisrael Katz wouldn’t be a better place. It may even be worse, even if their wives are pious and their ways nothing but modesty and honesty.”