As he arrived at Jerusalem District Court Sunday for the opening of his corruption trial, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a statement to media in which he painted the indictment against him as an attempted political coup orchestrated by figures in the justice system, law enforcement, the media and the political left.
Among a series of demands that, he claimed, would shed light on his unfair treatment by the justice system and law enforcers, and reveal the charges against him to be absurd and fabricated, Netanyahu made five asks for publicizing information.
But according to Channel 13 news veteran political reporter Raviv Drucker, even if fulfilled none of the requests would likely have any impact.
Netanyahu repeated a demand that his trial be broadcast live, but though he has stated he wants the public to be able to follow proceedings every step of the way, so far his attorneys have not actually made a formal request for a live broadcast, the TV report said. (The court ruled last week that it would not allow live broadcast of the trial.)
The prime minister also asked for the publication of a “shocking document” sent from the Justice Ministry to the state comptroller in 2017 that he said concluded that he was not to be faulted regarding his actions as communication minister, a position he held at the time in addition to being the premier.
Drucker’s Sunday night Channel 13 report noted, however, that the letter was sent before the Justice Ministry became aware of Netanyahu’s alleged actions in what would become the most serious case, Case 4000, in which he is accused of pushing regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 benefiting the then-owner of the Walla news website, fellow defendant Shaul Elovitch, the former Bezeq controlling shareholder, in exchange for positive coverage.
Netanyahu also demanded the publication of the investigation of a witness in Case 4000 who was reportedly pressured into testifying under threat that if he didn’t, details of his ties with a woman would be made public.
Channel 13 noted that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who eventually filed the indictments against Netanyahu, was not aware of the incident at the time but ordered it be investigated when he found out. Also, the witness himself gave other reasons as his motive for testifying and did not say it was because he was intimidated, Drucker reported.
Likewise, Netanyahu demanded publication of the questioning of a woman he identified as Svetlana, who worked at the Prime Minister’s Residence and who filed a complaint of verbal sexual harassment against the housekeeper there. At the time the complaint was made, the housekeeper was a state witness against Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, in a case of alleged misuse of state funds for catering. Netanyahu claimed police threatened Svetlana that if she didn’t declare that it was the prime minister who sent her to file the harassment claim, then she would spend the night in jail.
Channel 13 pointed out, however, that the harassment case was closed due to lack of evidence and that there is no mention in the case file of the alleged threat to Svetlana.
Lastly, Netanyahu suggested Mandelblit may have indicted him because the attorney general has “something personal to hide,” and that if the public would “know the whole truth,” the cases against him would fall apart. Netanyahu speculated that, due to this alleged secret, Mandelblit was “pressured” into approving the charges against him. Netanyahu was referring to the so-called Harpaz affair, a 2010 scandal in which Mandelblit was briefly suspected of having helped military brass cover up a smear campaign. The case against him was dropped.
Netanyahu and his allies have lately been highlighting Mandelblit’s alleged impropriety in the Harpaz affair, with Likud Minister David Amsalem claiming last week that Mandelblit is “allegedly a criminal,” and Netanyahu on Sunday demanding that purportedly incriminating “recordings” in a Justice Ministry safe be broadcast.
The TV report noted that the file was closed and that Mandelblit was later appointed attorney general by none other than Netanyahu himself.
Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, is on trial for fraud and breach of trust in all three cases against him, as well as bribery in Case 4000.