Judith Tirosh, the prosecutor in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla corruption case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, planned to resign from her post after receiving the case so she could be appointed as a judge – but later changed her mind.
Tirosh submitted her candidacy, passed the initial selection tests of the Judicial Appointments Committee and even informed Liat Ben Ari, chief prosecutor in the cases against Netanyahu. Last November, 10 months after the indictments were filed in the case – and before it was publicized that she was an official candidate for a judgeship – Tirosh decided to freeze her candidacy and continue on in her job as a prosecutor.
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Tirosh declined to comment on the matter. A spokesman on behalf of Tirosh said “she chose to freeze her candidacy for a judgeship at this stage because of her desire to continue her work as the head of the securities department of the State Prosecutor’s Office.”
Tirosh submitted her candidacy for a judgeship back in 2016. In 2019, after the announcement of the police’s recommendations in the case, she decided nonetheless to take the evaluation course of the Judicial Appointments Committee – and completed it with high grades. In 2020, the subcommittee approved her being added to the official list of candidates for appointments to the bench, a few months after the indictment against Netanyahu was filed in January. At this stage, Tirosh decided to be interviewed by the subcommittee members – former Knesset member Zvi Hauser, Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman and the representative of the Israel Bar Association, attorney Ilana Seker.
After Tirosh was added to the pool of candidates, she was supposed to be placed on the list of candidates to be discussed during the meetings of the Judicial Appointments Committee in late 2020. In July, Transportation Minister Miri Regev and former lawmaker Osnat Mark, both of Likud, were appointed members of the committee, and four months later Tirosh informed the committee she wanted to freeze her candidacy, updating Ben Ari. Officials in the tax and economic department of the State Prosecutor’s Office told Haaretz that Tirosh’s decision was not related to the new committee appointments.
She was not the only senior official involved in Case 4000 who was a candidate for the bench. In November, Haaretz reported that the head of the investigative team in the case, attorney Tzipi Gez, head of the intelligence and investigations department in the Israel Securities Authority, also was a candidate for a judgeship, and was examined by the subcommittee, including by Mark. According to the report, Mark opposed her appointment and made it clear that she did not know Gez’s part in the investigation of Case 4000 during the discussion of her candidacy.
Officials in the tax and economic department of the State Prosecutor’s Office told Haaretz that they read the report published at the time with great interest, and in conversations between the prosecutors Tirosh said that based on the report it seems she had made the right decision.
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Last week, the evidentiary stage of Netanyahu’s trial began. In Case 4000 he is charged with receiving bribes from the former owner of Bezeq and the Walla news website, Shaul Elovitch, in the form of slanting the coverage on the site on behalf of Netanyahu and his family – and in return he granted regulatory benefits to Elovitch that were worth about 1 billion shekels.
The court sessions in the case focused on the testimony of the former CEO of Walla, Ilan Yeshua, who said Elovitch and his wife Iris asked him to delete correspondence between them about slanting the coverage on the site on Netanyahu’s behalf, and to coordinate his version of the story with “Netanyahu’s people.”
Yeshua told the Jerusalem District Court that while he always felt morally uncomfortable with the slanted coverage, he realized it was criminal only after that meeting with Elovitch and his wife, Iris. The Elovitches also urged him to destroy his cellphone, he said, but he tricked them by first backing up its contents. They have also been charged with bribery.
“Iris asked me to come to her house late at night,” Yeshua said. “When I arrived, Shaul and she asked me to leave my phone outside and left theirs outside too. They were very tense.” They told him they had just heard that a criminal investigation against Netanyahu had been opened. They didn’t know what the subject of the investigation was, but they saw only two possibilities – and one of those was their conduct at Walla.
“I understood that they and the prime minister’s people were worried,” Yeshua said. “They asked me to coordinate stories with Shaul and the prime minister, no less, regarding how to respond to such an investigation.
“They said that if [the police] asked about the reason for the website’s coverage, I should say there was none, and so would Shaul and the prime minister. And then the investigators would have nothing.”