Israel's Attorney General May Lighten Charges Against Netanyahu in Luxury Gifts Case

Israeli media reports Attorney General Mendelblit is leaning toward charges of fraud and breach of trust instead of initial bribery charges in case 1000

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, September 16, 2018.
Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters

After the latest interrogation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday in cases 1000, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit was reported by Israeli media as leaning toward indicting him for fraud and breach of trust rather than bribery as initially expected.

Motti Gilat said in weekend reports on Kan television and other media that Mendelblit’s leaned toward “going for something more certain” in Case 1000.

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Police questioned Netanyahu ahead of an anticipated decision in these cases, based on information provided by state’s witness Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu aide.

Hefetz had told investigators that Netanyahu had clearly intended to advance a bribery deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes: positive coverage in Yedioth in exchange for a reduction in the circulation of freebie competitor Israel Hayom. Hefetz also provided a recording of a conversation he had with billionaire Arnon Milchan, who mediated the Netanyahu-Mozes talks in 2009.

Along with Netanyahu’s questioning on Friday, which lasted about four and a half hours, police also summoned for questioning cabinet ministers Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin, with whom Netanyahu allegedly examined the possibility of passing the “Israel Hayom law” before the 2015 elections.

Further police investigation is needed in that case, and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson may also be questioned.

Cases 1000 (“cigars and champagne”) and 2000 (Yedioth-Israel Hayom) were moved to the prosecutor’s office in February, with the onset of an investigation into Case 4000 (Bezeq-Walla). Case 4000 seems a more likely candidate for bribery charges, with the prosecution having two state’s witnesses and another key witness, Ilan Yeshua of Walla, who has not been named as a suspect in any wrongdoing in these cases.

Netanyahu’s interrogation on Friday was his 12th, and it may be his last.

Netanyahu’s office said afterwards: “After the 12th interrogation,, it is finally clear that there is not only no meat in the investigation, but not even a bone. This time as well the prime minister replied to all the questions with full confidence, knowing clearly that there was nothing and that there will not be anything, either.”