State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan on Monday said he hopes a corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not go on for much more time and defended the prolonged process so far by saying such an important file must be dealt with carefully.
Nitzan’s comments came after hundreds of people demonstrated near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over the weekend, against what they alleged were delay tactics in the criminal investigations into Netanyahu and his wife.
Netanyahu is facing two separate criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000.
Referring to Case 1000, Nitzan said he hopes the investigation won’t go on for many more months.
“If only it was possible to close the investigation more quickly,” he said at an informal meet-the-public legal event held in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market.
Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family from billionaire benefactors, most notably, hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne said to have been given to the prime minister and his wife Sara by Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
“Because we are talking about the prime minister, our job is to accompany the investigation, the attorney-general personally, and myself personally,” Nitzan said. “We had dozens of meetings to look at the progress of the investigation, but you need to understand that in investigations like this on the one hand you want to proceed as quickly as possible, and on the other hand you can’t leave any stone unturned.”
Netanyahu and his wife are said to have denied that receiving the gifts constituted a criminal offense, claiming the value of the items was significantly lower than reported, and that they were mere “trifles” exchanged between close friends.
Case 2000 is focused on an alleged clandestine quid pro quo deal made between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister is said to have promised Mozes he would advance legislation to reduce the circulation of Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was ever implemented. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
Nitzan also commented on the demonstrations outside the attorney-general’s home, saying that freedom of speech is not an absolute value, but must “be balanced and also take into consideration also the right to privacy.”
“Systematic demonstrations outside private homes have the aim of harassing children and neighbors,” he said. “The Supreme Court ruled that. Not me.”
The demonstrators, who have been holding weekly rallies for over two months, were also pushing back against a recent Supreme Court ruling barring protests outside the homes of public officials.
Another corruption investigation, this time focused on financial dealings by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, will been seen through until the end, Nitzan assured.
“They will ask all the questions and after the file is passed to the prosecutors [office] we will consider it,” he said and recalled that he had opposed Deri’s appointment to the ministry in January 2016 as being legally indefensible.
Deri resigned from the Interior Ministry in 1993 amid corruption allegations for which he would later serve 22 months in prison. After returning to politics he led the ultra-Orthodox Shas party to seven Knesset seats in 2015 and joined the government coalition.
Deri’s appointment to interior minister — the very same position he give up due to his previous investigation — was challenged at the time in a High Court petition by the Movement for Quality Government but was not averted.
Deri and his wife Yaffa were questioned for a second time on Monday afternoon, in the ongoing corruption case against him, police said.
The minister is under suspicion of money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, theft by an authorized person, fraudulent registration, and tax offenses, according to police.
Deri’s wife, Yaffa, is also suspected of various financial crimes, including tax evasion and using money donated to her nonprofit organization to purchase real estate.