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Hundreds protest near AG’s home over Netanyahu graft probes

Demonstrators in Petah Tikva speak out against Avichai Mandelblit’s alleged delaying tactics on several graft cases involving PM

Hundreds of people demonstrate near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva on July 22, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Hundreds of people demonstrate near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva on July 22, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Hundreds of people staged a protest against political corruption on Saturday night in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

The demonstrators were protesting against Mandelblit’s handling of a number of graft cases involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family and the attorney general’s alleged delaying tactics.

A small number of counter-demonstrators, Likud activists, played the Netanyahu-led party jingle and chanted pro-Netanyahu slogans.

A second counter-protest was staged against the near-weekly demonstrations in the city near Mandelblit’s home.

Netanyahu has been embroiled in a number of corruption scandals this year, some directly involving him and his family, others involving those close to him. He denies any wrongdoing.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In what police have dubbed “Case 1000,” anti-corruption officers are investigating allegations surrounding illicit gifts given to the Netanyahus by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Netanyahu and his wife have denied that receiving the gifts constituted a criminal offense, claiming the value of the items was significantly lower than reported, and that they were mere “trifles” exchanged between close friends. Milchan has maintained that he did not expect anything in return for the gifts.

Another parallel corruption investigation, dubbed Case 2000, is focused on an alleged clandestine quid pro quo deal discussed between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister promised Mozes he would work to hobble Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was ever implemented.

Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 23, 2017. (Ohad Zweigenberg/POOL)
Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 23, 2017. (Ohad Zweigenberg/POOL)

In what is known as “Case 3000,” authorities are investigating alleged corruption and bribery involved in multi-billion-shekel naval deals with the German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.

Netanyahu’s personal attorney David Shimron is suspected of pushing for a NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion) defense contract to purchase submarines for the Israeli Navy and other vessels for protecting the country’s maritime natural gas fields, an effort that could have netted him a hefty fee. Netanyahu’s own role in the purchase decision, including his insistence that Thyssenkrupp be exempted from the usual Defense Ministry tender process, raised concerns of a conflict of interest for Shimron.

Part of the agreement being pushed by Shimron would also have seen ThyssenKrupp construct a lucrative shipyard in Israel, where the company would maintain the new vessels. Two other suspects are the former deputy head of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and ThyssenKrupp’s Israeli agent Miki Ganor.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case but has been asked to testify.

Mandelblit ordered the Israel Police to formally look into the submarine affair in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase vessels by Shimron.

Netanyahu’s former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said earlier this month that there was no way that the premier could not have been involved.

In addition, in what is sometimes called “Case 4000,” Shlomo Filber, the director-general of the Communications Ministry, is under investigation over securities offenses related to a merger involving the national telephone company Bezeq.

Israel’s state comptroller released a report earlier this month that accused Netanyahu of failing to originally disclose his close ties with Bezeq head Shaul Elovitz, and raised suspicions that the prime minister — who at the time held the post of communications minister — and Filber made decisions at the ministry in favor of Bezeq.

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