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TV report: Partner to Netanyahu’s lawyer plotted to smear judges in his trial

Investigative report airs footage of attorney Ariel Roth seeking funding to record family members of the justices overseeing the case making remarks against the PM

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Lawyer Ariel Roth, seen in an Uvda TV documentary, December 24, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Lawyer Ariel Roth, seen in an Uvda TV documentary, December 24, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)

A senior partner in the law firm of one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers was reportedly involved in a scheme to undermine the corruption trial against the premier.

According to an investigative report aired on Channel 12’s “Uvda” program, lawyer Ariel Roth tried to get family members of the judges overseeing the case to make remarks against Netanyahu in order to discredit the justices.

Roth co-founded the law firm of Amit Hadad, who represents Netanyahu in the trial, in which he is charged with fraud and breach of trust in three cases, and bribery in one of them. Netanyahu denies the charges.

Video recordings aired on the TV program Thursday night showed Roth describing his plan to seek information to undermine the legitimacy of some of the judges, which could have resulted in them being replaced due to a conflict of interest and in the trial being delayed.

Attorney Amit Hadad seen during a court hearing at the District Court in Tel Aviv, February 05, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90 )

Filmed in the home of a woman he was allegedly recruiting to finance the plan by paying someone up to NIS 500,000 ($155,000) to carry out the recordings, Roth explained how the process was to work.

The woman had cooperated with Uvda to record Roth.

“In the end the result will be if he really manages to bring about someone from the immediate, first-degree family saying, ‘Listen, it’s a complete stitch up, it’s all bullshit,” Roth said.

“You ask me in the end if such a thing is worth money? The answer is yes. You ask me if it will lead to the cancellation of the trial? In my legal, not public opinion, it can delay, it can make a lot of noise,” Roth said.

Roth told Uvda, before the footage was aired, that he had no connection to any attempt to smear the judges and didn’t even know who the judges were.

“I have never been involved with Netanayhu’s cases,” he said.

The panel of judges trying Netanyahu is headed by Rivka Friedman-Feldman along with Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham.

Hadad told Uvda that he had “no notion” of Roth’s plans or conversations and that Roth had no role in Netanyahu’s cases, nor had he ever been in contact with the prime minister.

(L-R) Judges Moshe Bar-Am, Rivka Friedman-Feldman and Oded Shaham. (Justice Ministry)

Responding to the report, Netanyahu’s spokesperson called the program “another absurd and baseless attempt to harm Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of the election. The prime minister does not know Mr. Roth, Mr. Roth does not represent him, the prime minister has never spoken to him, and of course he did not ask him for anything, either directly or indirectly.

“The prime minister is confident of his innocence and will conduct his trial in court before the panel of judges,” the spokesperson added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) talks with attorneys Micha Fettman (L) and Amit Hadad (R) inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020 (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

Netanyahu’s trial opened in May. He faces indictment in three separate criminal cases. The evidence stage of the trial begins in February.

Case 4000, in which the prime minister is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, involves allegations that Netanyahu granted regulatory favors benefitting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecoms, in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister and his family from the Bezeq-owned Walla news site.

Netanyahu also faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and Case 2000. The former involves suspicions Netanyahu illicitly accepted some $200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening rival newspaper Israel Hayom. Mozes was charged with bribery in the case.

Netanyahu, who is the first Israeli premier to be indicted while in office, denies any wrongdoing and has railed against the courts, prosecution, and media for what he terms a “witch hunt” and “attempted coup.”

In November, the court delayed the start of the evidentiary stage from January to February. The court said that witness testimony would be pushed off by a month and that precise dates would be determined later.

Resigning from the Likud party on Wednesday night, Netanyahu’s former close aide and a former minister Ze’ev Elkin asserted that the prime minister had forced Israel into both March 2020’s elections and the new elections called for March 2021 because he hopes to see a parliament elected in which legislators will grant him parliamentary immunity from prosecution and/or pass a so-called “French law” under which he cannot be tried while in office. Netanyahu dismissed Elkin’s allegations as lies.

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