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Charges are 'fabricated'; 'I stand here, my head held high'

Full text: In pre-trial speech, Netanyahu assails the justice system and media

‘The goal is to bring down a strong PM… and keep the right away from power for years’: Before entering courtroom, PM rails against law enforcement, demands ‘full transparency’

This is the full text of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks, delivered at Jerusalem District Court on Sunday, May 24, 2020, minutes before he entered Courtroom 317 for the start of his trial on corruption charges. Surrounding him were a group of ministers and MKs from his Likud party.

Citizens of Israel, what is on trial today is an effort to frustrate the will of the people — the attempt to bring down me and the right-wing camp.

For more than a decade, the left has failed to do this at the ballot box. So over the last few years, they have found a new method: elements in the police and the prosecution joined forces with the leftist media — I call them the “anyone but Bibi” gang — to manufacture baseless and absurd cases against me.

The goal is to bring down a strong prime minister from the right wing and thus keep the right-wing camp away from running the state for many years. By the way, they would not mind if some cooperative poodle came along from the right — those are always around — but me, I am no poodle.

I am not willing to adjust my policies to receive better media coverage, I am not prepared to uproot settlements, I am not willing to do all sorts of other things, and therefore I must be removed by any means.

Yesterday, I heard the former police commissioner, Roni Alsheich, preach in a self-righteous way about moral propriety. This is the same Alsheich who transferred millions of taxpayer money — without a tender, of course — to his media adviser. It is the same Alsheich who committed a criminal offense when he leaked from the investigations against me on live TV. The same Alsheich who spun libel against me as if I had sent private investigators against him and police investigators. I am still waiting for an apology.

He reminds me in this sense of another Roni, Roni Ritman, who headed the [police] unit that investigated me. He claimed, with extraordinary audacity, a false claim — that I am the one who sent a female police officer to register a complaint against him for sexual harassment.

These are the people who led the investigations against me. I am sure they did this deliberately and willingly. These investigations were polluted and fabricated from the start. It is no wonder that they ended with an absurd and fabricated indictment.

The attempts to topple me and the right wing reached their height in the past year. Twice over this past year, the “anyone but Bibi” gang unabashedly intervened in the elections. On the eve of the April 2019 elections, they were quick to publish draft charges against me. Because of the draft charges, they were sure the right wing, the Likud party, and I would crash in the elections.

Well, that did not happen, so they tried again. On the eve of the last elections in March, they intervened again. This time, they filed the indictment, and that was supposed to be the death blow. They were celebrating in the TV studios. They did everything to ensure I would not be standing here as a prime minister, but as a former prime minister, a defeated, embarrassed politician.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by Likud lawmakers, gives a televised statement before the start of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020. Among the Likud ministers pictured (from left) are Amir Ohana, Miri Regev, Israel Katz, Tzachi Hangebi, Yoav Gallant and David Amsalam. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

However, citizens of Israel, you are far smarter than what this gang thinks about you, about us. You gave Likud, headed by me, more votes than any party has ever received in the history of the state. You know, in 2015, the last time I ran in an election before they started fabricating investigations and cases, I received 980,000 votes. Five years later, with a fabricated and baseless indictment against me, I received 1,350,000 votes. It is an increase of almost 40 percent. It is a huge expression of confidence in me, and a huge expression of no-confidence in them, in everyone who fabricated the indictment against me.

And that, citizens of Israel, is why I stand here as your prime minister, with a straight back and my head held high. And I demand: Reveal everything, expose everything. Media representatives, I know why you are here. You want to film me in court as part of the propaganda campaign, “anyone but Bibi,” which does not stop even for a moment. But me, I want the public to see the whole picture, to know the whole truth.

Therefore, my first request from the court is full transparency. I ask for everything to be broadcast live. A continuous, uncensored livestream. The public should hear everything, and not via the skewed filter of the prosecution’s court reporters.

Just last Thursday, one of these reporters held a tendentious court martial against me, with a Soviet aroma. This is a most severe case, I think unprecedented, of obstruction of justice and witness-tampering. One of the witnesses was told, “If you don’t testify against Netanyahu, you will go to prison.” And the other was told, “If you dare change your testimony in favor of Netanyahu, you will go to prison as well.” There’s a name for that — blackmail. And it was all on TV, without any shame.

So we, my attorneys, have filed another complaint to the attorney general. Let’s see what comes of it, after he rejected all the complaints we filed against the flood of criminal leaks from the investigations that came from his building. Will he finally respond to this complaint?

And therefore, rather than tendentious leaks, instead of lies and distortions by the media, I am proposing a simple solution: for everything to be broadcast in full. Without editing, without fudging — let everything be exposed to the public.

Before anything else, I demand the exposure of the shocking document the Justice Ministry sent to the state comptroller in 2017. The same Justice Ministry that in 2019 signed off on the indictment against me, sent a document to the comptroller two years prior, concluding — look what it concluded — that there was no fault in my decisions or actions in the central subject of the indictment.

You know what’s even more amazing? That under all kinds of pretexts, this document is not reaching me, and it is not reaching you, the public, the citizens of Israel, because it dismantles their case and prevents them from ousting a right-wing prime minister. And that is why I am demanding: immediately publish the document the Justice Ministry sent to the state comptroller.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a protective face mask, pictured inside the courtroom at the District Court of Jerusalem on May 24, 2020, at the start of the first day of his corruption trial. (Ronen Zvulun / POOL / AFP)

And I am demanding more things. I am demanding the publication of the protocol of the interrogations where criminal measures were used, including blackmail, to get witnesses to incriminate me with false testimonies.

I demand the publication of the interrogation in which a witness was brought together with a certain woman at a police facility and threatened, “If you don’t give us what we want against Netanyahu, we will destroy your family.”

I demand the publication of the interrogation protocol of Svetlana, the employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence. Svetlana came to the police to complain about sexual harassment by a housekeeper at the residence [Meni Naftali], who was a state witness in the ridiculous catering meals case against my wife. A senior police interrogator came in and said, “If you don’t say Netanyahu sent you to complain, you will spend the night at Neve Tirtza Prison.” The same interrogator was a member of the team investigating me. It’s simply unbelievable.

And there are countless more examples of illegitimate acts that were committed. It seems like there is no limit to the lengths gone to try to bring down me and the right-wing camp.

And I ask you, is this the rule of law? Is this democracy? Where have things like this been heard of in democracies? In all 244 years of democracy worldwide — I’m counting it from the United States’s Declaration of Independence — there has never been a single indictment filed for favorable press coverage.

By the way, in my case that did not happen: I want you to understand the levels of absurdity. I and my family — the most vilified prime minister and his family in the history of the state — I of all people have been charged with receiving positive coverage.

One of the world’s greatest legal experts, Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University, said this: “The Netanyahu trial poses a big danger to democracy and the rule of law. This is the first time in history that a person is standing trial for positive coverage.”

There is a reason that the legendary Robert Jackson, a US Supreme Court judge, said that the worst abuse of power by an attorney general is when he wants to bring someone down, finds some clause in the law book, and twists it to use it against his victim.

But here, ladies and gentlemen, here it is far worse. Here, they did not use an existing clause. Here, they invented a special clause specially for me that does not exist in any law book in Israel or the world. They tailor-made it just for me. The Netanyahu collection. As [former state attorney] Shai Nitzan said: “It’s a precedent, but there’s always a first.” You understand, 244 years ago, it did not exist, and, completely coincidentally, it is being used against me. Because when they need to destroy me, a strong, right-wing prime minister, everything, and I mean everything, is possible.

This, of course, begs the question, how could the attorney general have backed up all these corrupt moves and signed this baseless and absurd indictment? Is he being pressured? Does he have something to hide, something personal?

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 17th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Is that something the [Harpaz] secret recordings hidden in a safe at the Justice Ministry? Who knows. Therefore I demand the publication, here and now, of all the attorney general’s recordings, because there is no better disinfectant than sunlight. It is imperative to lift all gag orders because if the public knows the whole truth, all these cases will crumble.

I want to tell you, I hear this from so many citizens. They tell me, “Bibi, be strong, we are not buying this nonsense. We all understand they have fabricated cases against you. We understand what’s going on here, elements in the police, the prosecution and the media are trying to commit a political coup against the will of the people. They are trying to oust you, so that they can oust us right-wing voters.”

I came now from the Prime Minister’s Office after we held a cabinet meeting at the Knesset. I met there with representatives of a thousand elderly Holocaust survivors, they brought me a thousand signatures of Holocaust survivors supporting me. One woman told me, “We were in the forests, we are praying for you.” Another told me, “Wolves are coming to devour you. You’re not alone, we’re with you.” They brought me to tears.

My many friends, I want to reassure you all. With your help, and with God’s help, I will continue to fight. I won’t let them bring us down. While the media continues to deal with nonsense, with these false, baseless cases, I will continue leading the State of Israel and dealing with things you actually care about — bringing back the workplaces we lost in the coronavirus crisis, rehabilitating and strengthening our economy, continuing to save thousands of Israeli lives ahead of a possible second coronavirus wave, and above all, preserving security and your lives.

The State of Israel is my life’s mission, and I will continue strengthening it and safeguarding it, safeguarding you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your immense support.

Thank you.

— Translation by Michael Bachner

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