Justice minister says she can’t help PM’s lawyers with documents on Case 4000

Likud protests after Ayelet Shaked says she does not have authority to approve request for files it says prove Netanyahu innocence in Bezeq graft case

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday rejected a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal defense team for help obtaining documents related to a corruption probe involving the premier.

Israeli television reported Monday that lawyer Navot Tel-Zur demanded in a letter that Shaked urgently intervene to ensure documents relating to Case 4000 are made available for the benefit of Netanyahu’s defense.

Tel-Zur said they would help prove there was no wrongdoing in his client’s dealings with Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch.

“I gave the letter to the attorney general, to whom it should have been sent to from the outset,” Shaked was quoted saying by Channel 12 news.

“Everyone knows the justice minister cannot intervene. It is not in my authority,” she added.

Shaked said she asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to swiftly respond to Netanyahu’s lawyers.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, left, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at a ceremony in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

The prime minister’s Likud party said it was “astounded” by Shaked’s refusals amid repeated claims that Netanyahu has not gotten a fair shake from investigators.

“After they did not allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to confront the state witnesses against him and after they deprived him of the basic right to fund his defense [with benefactors’ money] against the giant sums invested against him with taxpayer money by the police and prosecutors, now they are refusing to publish official Justice Ministry documents that are not investigation material and which help refute the accusations against Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the party wrote on its Twitter page.

Shaked hit back, saying “This is the truth and enough of the spin.”

Shaked is number two in the New Right party, which has sparred with Netanyahu recently amid a battle for right-wing support ahead of April 9 elections.

In his letter, Tel-Zur asserted the documents in question included a 2016-2017 back-and-forth between Justice Ministry officials and the State Comptroller in which the ministry stated that Netanyahu’s actions were all aboveboard, and that decisions were made only after consulting legal authorities to ensure there would be no conflict of interests.

Navot Tel-Zur at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 9, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In Case 4000, Netanyahu is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Elovitch, who was the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site.

Insisting he has done nothing wrong, Netanyahu has argued that the media, the opposition, and the police are mounting a “witch hunt” against him and relentlessly pushing a “weak” attorney general to indict him in corruption cases.

Mandelblit is widely expected to announce in the coming days his plans to indict Netanyahu pending a hearing. The hearing process could take up to a year.

Netanyahu is also a suspect in two other corruption investigations, Case 1000 and Case 2000.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is alleged to have received tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood producer, and James Packer, an Australian casino mogul. The gifts include champagne, cigars, flights and hotel rooms.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu and Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s best-selling newspaper, have been investigated over allegations that the two tried to broker a deal by which a rival tabloid would be hobbled in exchange for helping the prime minister remain in power.

On Sunday, the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee rejected for the second time a request by Netanyahu to fund his legal defense in the three corruption cases via payments from wealthy associates, including his cousin.

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