The ex-operations manager of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence is demanding that 18 months of security-camera footage and supermarket bills to the household be made public.
The ex-operations manager, Meni Naftali, is already suing Netanyahu’s wife Sara for allegedly abusive behavior toward him.
The footage’s existence, revealed in a document drawn up by the civil-suit department of the Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office, is liable to document Sara Netanyahu’s behavior toward household staff, which has come into question in recent years.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that since March 2010, the police and state comptroller have neglected to investigate information about Ehud Barak, a former prime minister and defense minister under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
This information is reportedly similar to claims by Olmert to his bureau chief at the time, Shula Zaken — claims that have been recorded on tape. Olmert has said Barak ”took bribes in the millions and the tens of millions.” The Justice Ministry said last week that a decision on whether to launch a criminal investigation on the matter would depend on the number of claims, witnesses and documents.
The common denominator between the sound recordings and the film footage is law enforcement’s embarrassing conduct regarding material lying unexamined for years in the offices of the prosecution, the police and the state comptroller. One big question is whether Barak did anything improper during the conducting of arms deals when he was defense minister.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered that the allegations be probed, but investigators’ shortcoming suggest that the police will have to redouble their efforts to make progress on the many clues in their position.
For example, a complaint has remained uninvestigated for some three months by attorneys for a former chief spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces, Avi Benayahu. The allegation is that military secrets were leaked to the advertising agency McCann-Erickson. Weinstein is to decide this week whether this matter will become the subject of a criminal investigation.
Back in March 2010, then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the head of the state comptroller’s security department, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Or, about his suspicion that Barak’s decision to buy a sixth submarine for the navy stemmed from extraneous interests. Ashkenazi made the claim in the presence of a friend of his and Or’s from the Golani Brigade, Maj. Gen. (res.) Uri Saguy.
Ashkenazi said at the time that the submarine was not needed, an opinion with which navy chief Eliezer Marom agreed, and that funding had not been earmarked for the purchase in the multiyear plan approved by Olmert’s cabinet. Or responded that talk about Barak had reached his office and that the information was being checked.
This year, similar information was conveyed during the questioning of Ashkenazi’s aide, Col. Erez Weiner, to an investigator from the police unit that investigates corruption and other major crimes, Lahav 433.
The state comptroller and police – which had received the comptroller’s materials – were also told about a meeting in New York with U.S. defense contractors. On hand were Barak and senior Defense Ministry officials Uri Shani and Pinchas Buchris. In a highly unorthodox move, a close associate of Barak, attorney Doron Cohen, was also present.
Despite the attorney general’s statement to the High Court of Justice last year that Barak’s part in a separate affair, known as the Harpaz affair, would also be probed, police investigators and the prosecutor supervising the case have not yet examined the information they possess. In a sense, the police and prosecution have so far given Barak immunity from investigation.
The police and prosecution have also failed to make full use of the Zaken audiotapes. In March the police gave recordings of eight conversations between Olmert and others to Lahav and the Tel Aviv prosecutors in charge of economic and tax probes.
The police also confiscated all of Zaken’s recording equipment and produced 40 conversations, 11 of which were found essential to the Holyland and Talansky corruption affairs. This comes under the purview of the criminal branch of Jerusalem’s prosecutors.
Conversations leading to suspicions that Olmert obstructed justice and suborned perjury from Zaken have generated another case, which has been given to the central district prosecution. Thus three districts have divided up the Zaken tapes without proper coordination.
The Netanyahus’ travails
In comparison, the Netanyahus’ troubles might seem negligible. Still, the security-camera footage is the most intriguing element in Naftali’s compensation suit.
To counter Naftali’s claims and show him as a person who was “rude and violent” toward staff, the prosecution showed footage from the yard of the Prime Minister’s Residence in which Naftali scuffles with an employee. According to Naftali’s lawyer, the footage simply reflects two bored employees amusing themselves with a session of Krav Maga — the self-defense system developed by the IDF.
The prosecution now has two decisions to make: How to criminally investigate the public officials it has defended in civil suits, and whether to give in to Naftali’s demands to see all the bills from three supermarkets that provision the Prime Minister’s Residence and celebrity chefs, if only so that in exchange it can keep the public from seeing footage showing Sara Netanyahu.
This approach would surely lead to a petition to the High Court of Justice. The Olmert, Barak and Netanyahu cases represent nothing less than a deluge of cases.
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