Blue and White party chairman MK Benny Gantz called on the attorney general to expedite the indictment process in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption probes and “end the corrupt dance by Netanyahu to evade justice.”
“There’s a hearing, a date, and the legal mumbo jumbo can’t continue,” Gantz said at a Blue and White faction meeting in the Knesset on Wednesday.
“Things have to move. An entire year has gone on this issue. The [default election date at the] end of 2019 was moved up to April 2019 for [Netanyahu’s] legal needs and to help build his escape route from justice,” Gantz charged, a reference to Likud’s preconditioning for coalition partners to support immunity for Netanyahu.
2019 was “a lost year,” Gantz added. “Instead of a government that makes sure the country moves ahead, it’s causing the country to sink.”
Netanyahu is facing indictments, pending a hearing, in three criminal probes. The pre-indictment hearings with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit are scheduled for October 2-3, after Mandelblit declined earlier this month to delay them due to the September 17 elections.
At the Blue and White faction meeting, party co-chair Yair Lapid alleged that the prime minister had built a vast “brainwashing machine” of right-wing media, as he complained all the while of the media’s left-wing bias.
“I want to remind you about something regarding this election: Netanyahu has two newspapers working for him, his own television station, and radio broadcasters who get their messaging directly from [Netanyahu confidant] Natan Eshel. He has unlimited funds, no one knows from where. He pours hundreds of millions into social networks. He has government ministers who crawl at his feet, without an opinion of their own. He doesn’t give speeches. He doesn’t give interviews. He’s in a bunker. But he’s built a megaphone,” Lapid said.
“For twenty years he’s been building a corrupt machine, huge, which works only for him. A brainwashing machine, which spews vast amounts of poison. And then he whines that the media is left-wing. He spends every day looking for another [controversial left-wing artist Yair] Garbuz to be offended by, so he can say he’s being persecuted. But who’s left to persecute him? Half the media is paralyzed by fear and the other half works for him.”
Some of the corruption charges Netanyahu faces concern attempts to influence how the media has covered him.
Attorney General Mandelblit announced in mid-February his intention to indict Netanyahu, pending the hearing, on fraud and breach of trust charges in three cases, and on a bribery charge in one of them.
There had been speculation that Netanyahu would petition the High Court of Justice in a bid to force Mandelblit to delay the October hearing, but the premier appeared to backtrack after Mandelblit said he believed the court would reject such an appeal, as the timing of the hearing was a procedural matter at the discretion of prosecutors.
Netanyahu is widely reported to have tried to build a coalition after April 9’s election in which his Likud MKs and their allies would initiate or back legislative efforts to enable him to avoid prosecution — first by easing his path to gaining immunity via the Knesset, and then by canceling the Supreme Court’s authority to overturn such immunity.
The latter change would be achieved as part of a wide-ranging reform of the Supreme Court’s role, under which justices would be denied their current authority to strike down legislation and Knesset and government decisions deemed unconstitutional. Plans for such “override” legislation have been described as marking a potential constitutional revolution that critics warn could shatter the checks and balances at the heart of Israeli democracy.
Netanyahu denies all the allegations against him, and has claimed they stem from a witch hunt supported by the left-wing opposition, the media, the police, and the state prosecution, headed by a “weak” attorney general.