The attorney general’s office will this week begin deliberating the findings in Case 2000, one of three corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with top officials split on whether the evidence justifies an indictment, Hadashot TV news reported Saturday night. On Friday, the same TV station said Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has concluded that Netanyahu should be indicted on bribery charges in another of the cases, Case 4000.
According to Saturday’s report, many in the state prosecution view Case 2000, involving a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, as the most complex of the three cases against the premier.
And the TV station alleged “serious differences” between members of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s team as to whether there was a strong enough case against Netanyahu: While some feel Case 2000 could be the “most serious” of the three cases as it involves recordings of the prime minister “plotting conspiracies in his own voice,” others feel it should be closed outright. No explanation was given for the stark contrast in positions.
According to suspicions, the prime minister told Mozes he would weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed free daily Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Under the alleged agreement between Mozes and Netanyahu — which was not implemented — the prime minister said he would advance legislation to curb the circulation of Israel Hayom if Mozes instructed his reporters and op-ed writers to soften their often negative stance toward him.
In February 2018 police recommended that Netanyahu stand trial in the case for “the offense of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”
Last December, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan was reported to have also recommended bribery charges against Netanyahu in the case, as in the two other cases pending against him.
Police said that starting in 2009, “Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes held conversations and personal meetings during which they discussed helping each other as a quid pro quo to advance their respective interests.”
The recommendations said “the sides took actual active steps in advancing each other’s interests in continuation of the understandings reached between them, or at least presented to each other as if they had acted that way.”
Police said that Netanyahu offered his support for possible measures including closing Israel Hayom, helping to shrink the newspaper’s circulation numbers, and nixing the free daily’s weekend edition. The law did not pass, as the government folded and went to elections in 2015.
In addition “the prime minister acted as an agent for the Yedioth Ahronoth publisher with other business people, in the purchase of Yedioth Ahronoth, while he was communications minister,” police said.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
A conclusion in Case 4000
Unconfirmed reports in recent days have said Mandelblit has concluded that Netanyahu should be indicted on bribery charges in Case 4000. In it he is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 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.
According to a Hadashot report on Friday, Mandelblit has concluded his deliberations on Case 4000 and will summon the prime minister for a pre-indictment hearing by mid-February. The attorney general is said to back the recommendations to indict made by the head of the State Prosecution’s Tax and Finance Department, Liat Ben Ari.
Lawyers for the prime minister slammed the TV report, which came ahead of an expected meeting next week between Mandelblit and Netanyahu’s legal team over their request that he delay his announcement on whether he will indict until after April’s elections. In a statement, they said that the leaks were aimed at undermining their right to a fair hearing.
“It is ridiculous that neither money nor envelopes, but a handful of non-hostile articles, is considered bribery,” the statement read. “An absurdity that undermines the foundations of democracy.”
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in the three cases for which he has been investigated, and says the probes are part of a political witch hunt designed to oust him, led by the left, the media and the police, in turn pressuring Mandelblit to indict him.
Mandelblit indicated Thursday that he will turn down Netanyahu’s request that he delay his announcement on whether he will indict the prime minister until after the elections on April 9.
Netanyahu has vowed not to step down if Mandelblit announces that he intends to indict him, pending a hearing, in any of the cases against him, asserting that the law does not require him to do so.
In a third case, Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits and gifts worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues. Some reports have suggested that Mandelblit is leaning toward a charge of breach of trust in this case.