Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers have written a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, urging him to denounce leaks to the media from prosecutors of details from criminal investigations against the premier.
Netanyahu attorney Navot Tel-Zur asked Mandelblit to “clarify that matters regarding the prime minister aren’t being conducted with a foregone conclusion to indict him at all costs,” Hadashot TV news reported Thursday.
A day earlier, Hadashot reported that State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan had recommended bribery charges in each of the three criminal cases against Netanyahu, in his conclusions sent to Mandelblit.
The cases against Netanyahu have been accompanied by regular leaks to the media of details and of impending conclusions, mostly by sources within police, but the latest one came from the state prosecution, which Tel-Zur said crossed a “red line.”
“If indeed the goal of this outrageous behavior of repeated leaks is to limit the attorney general’s room for consideration and present a done deal regarding the results of the investigation, it is a grave phenomenon that undermines public trust in law enforcement officials and their fairness, and that has nothing to do with the rule of law,” Netanyahu’s lawyer reportedly wrote in his letter.
“Under these circumstances, we expect the attorney general to express unequivocal rejection of such behavior, clarify that matters regarding the prime minister aren’t being conducted with a foregone conclusion to indict him at any cost, and that he has the ability to ignore the nonstop pressure put on him,” it added.
Mandelblit’s office responded to the report by hinting that the attorney general’s remarks earlier Thursday at the Globes Conference in Jerusalem — cautioning that the public should take with a “grain of salt” all unauthorized reports on the matter — had been a reaction to the letter sent by Netanyahu’s attorney.
Mandelblit had also said that his office would work swiftly and efficiently to reach a decision regarding the investigations.
“We will work quickly, but not at the expense of the investigation,” he said. “We will not pursue any one person, only justice.”
“I accompanied the process closely. The investigation was carried out with determination and professionalism,” Mandelblit said.
The State Prosecution reportedly considers one of the probes, known as Case 4000, to constitute “a clear case of bribery,” while Cases 1000 and 2000 are seen as “bribery lite.”
Wednesday’s report said the attorney general’s office aims to reach a decision on whether to press charges in the next few months, and certainly “well before Passover” in mid-April.
It is up to Mandelblit to decide whether to indict the premier, who denies any wrongdoing.
Police have recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery in cases 1000, 2000, and 4000. Last month it was reported that Tax and Finance Department head Liat Ben Ari, after reviewing police evidence, had made the same recommendation on cases 1000 and 2000, though there was no word on her position in Case 4000, the last investigation to have been completed by police.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily newspaper, the Sheldon Adelson-backed freebie Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
In Case 4000 Netanyahu is suspected of advancing regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.