'Mr. Netanyahu abused his position and political power...'

Full text: AG’s announcement of decision to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu

Document provides overview of the decision and its reasoning, as well as a summary of the charges

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the weekly government conference, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the weekly government conference, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Following is the full text of the Justice Ministry’s announcement that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to press charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases, as announced on Thursday, November 21, 2019, and provided by the ministry. It is not to be confused with the 63-page indictment itself.

The Attorney General, Dr. Avichai Mandelblit, has decided to indict the Prime Minister, MK Benjamin Netanyahu (“Mr. Netanyahu”), for offenses of taking a bribe, breach of trust in Case 4000, and for offenses of breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, which he allegedly committed while holding office as Prime Minister and Minister of Communications.

The indictment has been sent to the Prime Minister’s attorneys.

In addition, and based on the procedure set forth in section 4 of the Members of Knesset Immunity Law, the indictment was sent to the Speaker of the Knesset, so that Mr. Netanyahu may notify the Knesset of whether he wishes to request immunity from criminal prosecution.

The Attorney General has further decided to indict Shaul and Iris Elovitch (together: “the Elovitch couple”) for the offenses of bribery, obstruction of justice and suborning a witness in connection with an investigation, in Case 4000, and against the controlling shareholder and editor in chief of the “Yedioth Ahronoth” Group, Mr. Arnon (Noni) Mozes for the offense of offering a bribe in Case 2000.

Case 4000 relates to a reciprocal arrangement which allegedly developed between Mr. Netanyahu and the businessman Shaul Elovitch, who was the controlling shareholder, inter alia, of “Bezeq” and the “Walla” website. Under the alleged arrangement, Mr. Elovitch strongly influenced the coverage in the “Walla” website in favor of Mr. Netanyahu, who in return acted to substantially benefit Mr. Elovitch and his business interests, while using his governmental powers. In this case the Prime Minister is charged with offences of taking a bribe, breach of trust, and the Elovitch couple are charged with bribery, obstruction of justice and suborning a witness in connection with an investigation.

Case 2000 relates to meetings held between Mr. Netanyahu and the businessman and owner and publisher of the “Yedioth Ahronoth” Group, Arnon Mozes, in the course of which they discussed changing the group’s media coverage of Mr. Netanyahu in his favor, and promoting a bill that would minimize the damaging effects of the circulation of the “Israel Hayom” newspaper on Mr. Mozes’s business interests. In this case, the Prime Minister is charged with breach of trust, and Mr. Mozes is charged with offering a bribe.

Case 1000 involves a relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and the businessmen Arnon Milchan and James Packer, in the course of which Mr. Netanyahu allegedly received various benefits, mainly the regular supply of valuable goods, such that they became a sort of “supply channel” of considerable scope and value (approximately 690,000 NIS). In parallel, Mr. Netanyahu allegedly took various actions, taking advantage of his position as a public servant, in favor of Mr. Milchan with whom he had a friendly relationship. In this case, the Prime Minister is accused of breach of trust.

The Attorney General has made his decision after reviewing the numerous arguments raised by Mr. Netanyahu’s attorneys during of the four-day pre-indictment hearing. These arguments were thoroughly reviewed in the course of many dozens of hours of legal review and discussions. Eventually, is was found that none of the arguments raised in the pre-indictment hearing changed the legal underpinnings of the statement of suspicions.

The investigations in this matter were handled by the Israel Police (National Fraud Investigation Unit and Financial Crime Investigation Unit) and Israel’s Securities Authority, together with the Office of the Economics and Taxation Attorney.

Summary of the First Charge – Case 4000

1. In the period between December 2012 and January 2017, Mr. Netanyahu, as part of his responsibility as Prime Minister and later on as Minister of Communications, had the authority to grant approvals and permits to various business activities which were performed by the Bezeq Group. In addition, Mr. Netanyahu had the ability to influence governmental matters related to the Bezeq Group.

2. In the relevant period, Mr. Elovitch was the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq Group, and therefore had the ability to influence the type and nature of media coverage in the “Walla” website, which was under the control of the Bezeq Group.

3. Mr. Netanyahu attributed crucial importance to the media coverage he and his family received, in particular in connection with his political future.

4. Against this background, a reciprocal arrangement was created between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Elovitch, that was based on their mutual understanding that each of them held a significant interest, that the other was able to advance. During a dinner that took place in 2012, in the course of the election campaign for the 19th Knesset, it was agreed between the Elovitch couple and Mr. Netanyahu that he and his wife could make demands with respect to their media coverage in the “Walla” website.

5. The relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and the Elovitch couple was characterized by intensive and frequent contacts, which were conducted both directly and through intermediaries. As part of this relationship, Mr. Netanyahu and members of his family directed various demands to the Elovitch couple with respect to the nature of their coverage in the “Walla” website, and even made demands with respect to the coverage of Mr. Netanyahu’s political opponents. The Elovitch couple exerted substantial and continuing pressure over Ilan Yeshua, who was the Director General of the “Walla” website at the time, to comply with these demands. As a result, Mr. Yeshua directed the editors and reporters of the “Walla” website to change coverage on the website in a manner that corresponded with Mr. Netanyahu’s demands.

6. Throughout the relevant period, as part of this reciprocal arrangement, the Elovitch couple generally complied with whatever demands were made by Mr. Netanyahu and made every possible effort to implement them. In a significant part of the cases, their efforts on behalf of Mr. Netanyahu bore fruit. Mr. Netanyahu knew that the Elovitch couple’s assistance and compliance with his demands was unusual, significant and extensive, and was given to him in connection with his public office. The Elovitch couple were aware that they complied with Mr. Netanyahu’s demands to intervene with the content of the publications in the “Walla” website and made sure that Mr. Netanyahu was aware of their degree of compliance.

7. As part of the relationship that developed between Mr. Netanyahu and the Elovitch couple, Mr. Netanyahu used his powers and authorities as a public servant in order to promote matters in accordance with Mr. Elovitch’s wishes, concerning Bezeq or various companies within Eurocom, through which he controlled Bezeq and the “Walla” website. As part of these actions, and simultaneously with the demands which he directed at Mr. Elovitch, Mr. Netanyahu, by virtue of his role as a public servant, dealt on several occasions with regulatory matters pertaining to Mr. Elovitch, and took specific actions that promoted significant business interests of Mr. Elovitch of substantial financial value. These actions in Mr. Elovitch’s favor were taken by Mr. Netanyahu in return for the benefits with respect to the media coverage which he received from the Elovitch couple. By doing so, Mr. Netanyahu acted in a biased manner and put himself in a conflict of interest between his public responsibilities and his personal interests.

8. Mr. Elovitch directly and explicitly linked the manner of Mr. Netanyahu’s media coverage in “Walla” and the regulatory decisions that Mr. Netanyahu was supposed to make, and indeed made in the course of his public roles. Similarly, Iris Elovitch also linked such compliance to demands made by Mr. Netanyahu and his wife and the manner in which Mr. Netanyahu handled Bezeq’s regulatory matters. The Elovitch couple made it clear to various individuals who worked in “Walla” that the media coverage of Mr. Netanyahu and his family must be improved in order to achieve the desired regulatory decisions.

9. Mr. Netanyahu systematically and consistently concealed his relationship with the Elovitch couple from a number of official bodies, to whom he gave partial and misleading information in that regard.

10. In order to conceal their relationship with Mr. Netanyahu, the Elovitch couple acted to destroy evidence within cellular telephones which were in their possession, and ordered Mr. Yeshua to act in a similar manner. They also instructed Mr. Yeshua to give false statements with respect to their involvement in modifying publications in the “Walla” website, and with respect to their relationship with Mr. Netanyahu concerning his demands for interference in the various publications.

Summary of the Second Charge – Case 2000

1. Over the course of several years, there existed between Mr. Netanyahu and Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the owner and publisher of “Yedioth Ahronoth” media group, a profound rivalry. Despite this, they conducted three series of meetings over the course of a few years: in 2008-2009, 2013, and 2014. During each of these series of meetings, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Mozes engaged in discussions regarding the promotion of their common interests: improving the coverage that Mr. Netanyahu received in the “Yedioth Aharonoth” media group; and the imposition of restrictions on the “Israel Hayom” newspaper, which was of significant economic importance for Mr. Mozes himself and the “Yedioth Ahronoth” group.

2. In one of the meetings, which took place on 4.12.2014, prior to the 20th Knesset elections, Mr. Mozes offered a bribe to Mr. Netanyahu: the former would significantly improve the coverage that Mr. Netanyahu and his family received in the “Yedioth Ahronoth” media group, and would cover negatively his political opponents. This would constitute a significant reversal of the newspaper’s editorial positions. Mr. Mozes suggested that he would do so in a manner that would ensure Mr. Netanyahu’s continued tenure as Prime Minister for an extended period of time, in exchange for Mr. Netanyahu leveraging his influence as Prime Minister in order to advance legislation that would limit the circulation of “Israel Hayom” and would bring about substantial financial benefits for Mr. Mozes and his businesses.

3. Mr. Netanyahu did not reject the bribe offer and did not stop the discussions with Mr. Mozes as a result of it. Even though he did not intend to advance the legislative bill, he continued to engage in extensive and detailed discussions regarding the elements of Mr. Mozes’s proposal and gave the impression that he would use his political power to promote legislation that would be favorable to Mr. Mozes. Mr. Netanyahu acted in this manner in order to continue the discussion and to make Mr. Mozes positively influence Mr. Netanyahu’s media coverage by the “Yedioth Ahronoth” Group in the course of the elections, and act to prevent negative media coverage that might harm Mr. Netanyahu and his family, at least while the discussions between them continued.

4. Following the meeting, and in order to maintain the impression that he was considering the feasibility of promoting such legislation, Mr. Netanyahu met with the chairman of the government coalition, Ze’ev Elkin, and with the chairman of the Knesset Committee, Yariv Levin, knowing that the existence of the meeting would be made known to Mr. Mozes. In that meeting, Mr. Elkin and Mr. Levin told Mr. Netanyahu that it would not be possible to advance the legislation during the period in question. Afterwards, Mr. Netanyahu initiated another meeting with Mr. Mozes, in which he gave the impression that he would work towards promoting the legislation after the elections, in order to continue the discussions on the bribery offer.

Through these acts, Mozes made an offer to bribe Netanyahu.

5. Through these acts, Mr. Netanyahu committed breach of trust in a manner that significantly harms public trust and integrity. Mr. Netanyahu thus abused his position and political power in order to receive a benefit, by sending a message – while occupying the highest position in public office – that offers to bribe are an available tool for advancing the common interests of senior public officials and businesspersons, and that there is nothing improper with such bribes.

A summary of the Third Charge – Case 1000

1. Since 1999, there existed a personal relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and the businessman Arnon Milchan. As part of that relationship, from October 2011 until December 2016, Mr. Netanyahu and his wife received from Mr. Milchan various goods. In 2013, Mr. Milchan introduced Mr. Netanyahu to Mr. Packer, an Australian businessman. Between 2014 and 2016, Mr. Netanyahu received from Mr. Packer various goods.

2. The goods from Mr. Milchan and Mr. Packer, mainly cigar boxes and cases of champagne bottles, were given to Mr. Netanyahu and his wife, in a continuous manner, some of which came as a result of requests and demands, inter alia, through deliveries, even when Mr. Milchan and Mr. Packer were outside of Israel, such that they became a sort of “supply channel.” The value of the goods accumulated was considerable – it amounted to approximately 700,000 NIS. The goods were provided to Mr. Netanyahu in connection with his public roles and his status as Israel’s Prime Minister.

3. Given the connections between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Milchan, Mr. Netanyahu should have refrained from dealing with Mr. Milchan’s affairs. Despite this, in the period between October 2011 and December 2016, Mr. Netanyahu acted for the benefit of Mr. Milchan, as part of his official roles, in the following cases: in 2013-2014, he intervened with US government officials in order to secure for Mr. Milchan an entry visa to the United States, in two instances; in 2013, he contacted the Minister of Finance at the time, Yair Lapid, for the purpose of extending the tax reporting exemption period that is given to returning residents, from which Milchan could have benefited; in 2015, Mr. Netanyahu himself contacted the Director General of the Ministry of Communications at the time, Shlomo Filber, in order to assist Mr. Milchan regarding regulation concerning a merger between the communications companies “Reshet” and “Keshet,” so that an investment which Mr. Milchan was considering at the time, would be financially worthwhile for him.

4. By these actions, Mr. Netanyahu committed acts of breach of trust, in a manner that significantly harms public trust and integrity. This results from his improper relationship with Mr. Milchan and Mr. Packer, in the course of which he and his wife received from them goods on a very large scale, in connection with his public roles and his status as Israel’s Prime Minister. Netanyahu also committed acts of breach of trust, in a manner that significantly harms public trust, integrity and proper governance, in that he acted in a blatant conflict of interest between his personal commitment to Mr. Milchan and his obligations to the public.

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