Police have not gathered sufficient evidence to justify some of the charges they recommend being filed against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sources in the state prosecution reportedly told Israeli TV on Wednesday, in a devastating critique of the police’s current handling of the case. “Not everything asserted in the recommendations is backed up by the evidence” in the case file, the sources reportedly said.
The Hadashot TV report suggested serious friction between the prosecution and the police regarding the case, including over how long it should now take to finalize. The police believe the prosecution is sufficiently familiar with the material as to be able to first reach a decision on indictments, then hold a final hearing for Netanyahu to plead his case, and finally press charges, all within some eight months, and that anything longer would be foot-dragging, the report said.
The way the prosecution sees the process playing out, by contrast, would suggest that if any indictments are to be filed, this could not happen before late 2019, Hadashot news said. First, a senior prosecutor will go over the material and make a recommendation, then State Prosecutor Shani Nitzan will do the same. Next, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide if there is a case to answer, with each of these stages taking several months. More time would be required to prepare a hearing for Netanyahu, and then for Mandelblit to make a final decision, the TV report said.
A day after the police issued recommendations that Netanyahu be prosecuted for breach of trust, fraud and bribery in both of the corruption cases they have been investigating, the prosecution sources told Hadashot TV news that the police had “inflated the balloon to the very limit” — by which they meant, the report said, that at least some of the recommendations for prosecution were potentially overstated.
As things stand, the sources said, the case file against Netanyahu is incomplete, should not have been handed over to the state prosecution and the attorney general at this stage, and would require further police work.
Both Hadashot and Channel 10 news, which also quoted state legal sources, said the case was “only 95% complete,” and Channel 10 said it was even possible that Netanyahu himself would also have to be called in further questioning.
The state prosecution hierarchy — which is headed by Attorney General Mandelblit, the official who must ultimately decide on whether to prosecute the prime minister — only received the full case file from the police on Wednesday, a day after the police published their recommendations, Hadashot TV reported. It noted, however, that the state prosecution was routinely updated on the progress of the investigation on at least a daily basis.
“It is not clear to us why there was this mad rush to publish the recommendations yesterday,” the prosecution sources were quoted saying. The case file, they said, was “emphatically not ready for transfer at this time,” and “further investigations will certainly be required.”
They also reportedly protested that the police “tried to spin” a false impression that Mandelblit was delaying the publication of the police recommendations.
The police “wrote a check that they won’t have to cover” with their recommendations, the sources were quoted saying — while it would now fall to the prosecution to face the fallout.
Mandelblit has been placed “in an impossible situation,” the sources reportedly added, in which if he rolls back the recommendations even to the slightest degree “it will appear like a collapse” of the case.
Nonetheless, the sources said, Mandelblit will take “no short cuts” and will begin to formulate his position only after all he has received the opinions of all the relevant professionals in the legal hierarchy.
Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu slammed the police recommendations that he stand trial on a slew of corruption charges as “biased” and “extreme.” On Tuesday night, in a first response, he called them “unfounded.”
Police have recommend he be indicted in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totalling NIS 1 million ($282,000).
In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings and visa arrangements.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.