In New Video, Netanyahu Says Bribery Indictment Would Be Surrender to Left and Media

Prime minister also slams attorney general's decision to grant media interview, saying it 'raises serious questions'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a handover ceremony for the new Israeli chief of staff on January 15, 2019.
JACK GUEZ / AFP

In a video released Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a decision to indict him for bribery would be a surrender by the attorney general to the left and the media. 

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected next month to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, on charges of bribery in the Bezeq-Walla news-for-favors case – one of several corruption investigations involving the prime minister – a senior justice official said Saturday.

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Netanyahu's video opens with a text reading: “For three years the left and the media have been chasing after Mendelblit to indict at any cost,” accompanied by dramatic background music. Short clips are then shown of protests that have been held near Mendelblit’s house since November 2016, as well as other protests against him. “In the grocery, in the street, at synagogue,” the video says, ending with: “Will they succeed?”

Also Saturday, Netanyahu criticized Mendelblit's decision to grant an interview to the Israel Television News Company.

"The decision to cooperate with such a program, at such a time, is unprecedented in the history of Israeli law and raises serious question marks," the prime minister said of the interview, which aired Saturday. "I have serious things to say about what we saw this evening and I will say them when I return from the diplomatic trip to Chad."

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Following publication of the video, Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen wrote on his private Twitter account that “Only the evidence will speak. Any other publication – needless noise.”

The Justice Ministry spokesman reiterated statements similar to what  Mendelblit has said in the past, writing that the attorney general’s decision is not influenced by either the media or protests. “Not videos, not billboards and not protesters, not quotes by ‘associates,” and fake leaks – only professional considerations will be taken into account in the attorney general’s decision on the prime minister’s cases.”

On Friday, a large billboard was put up at a major Tel Aviv traffic junction featuring the photos of journalists Ben Caspit, Amnon Abramovich, Raviv Drucker and Guy Peleg, with the slogan “they won’t decide.” A Facebook page was also opened with the same slogan, and accusing the left of spreading “messages of hate against Netanyahu.”

According to Facebook's information, the page is promoted and targeted at users who follow Netanyahu's official page.

The Israel News Corporation reported on Saturday night that Netanyahu's Likud party was behind the billboard.

Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay tweeted Saturday night that the video was incitement and legitimized attacks against the attorney general and journalists. “Lapid, Gantz, pledge not to sit with Netanyahu [in the same government], who forgot his people and is destroying Israel,” he wrote.

Opposition chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said the video “is intended to terrorize the attorney general. The goal is to prevent him by any means from indicting, and to assure that if he does so, his decision will be painted with shades of treason,” she said.