Last Day of Netanyahu Hearing: Attorney General Decides Not to Add Extra Day

10-hour hearing focused on suspicions that the prime minister and his wife improperly received lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of Likud party members at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of Likud party members at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. Credit: Menahem KAHANA / AFP
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The fourth day of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing ended with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit deciding not to extend the deliberations – which on Monday addressed the so-called lavish gifts case – by another day.

Monday’s proceedings took more than 10 hours, during which Netanyahu’s lawyers tried to persuade the attorney general that the prime minister had not received improper benefits from wealthy businessmen.

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“Today we presented the arguments in Case 1000,” said one of Netanyahu’s attorneys, Amit Hadad, referring to the lavish gifts case. “We dealt with every single allegation and showed that the allegations fail a fact check. We hope and expect that after four long days, all the cases will be closed. We believe that this is what has to happen. Our arguments are correct.”

On Sunday and last week the parties addressed the police’s cases 2000 and 4000 in which Netanyahu allegedly offered benefits for positive media coverage.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from tycoons, above all Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Netanyahu’s line of defense in this case focuses on the argument that it is permissible to receive gifts from friends – in Case 1000 the many boxes of cigars and cases of champagne that the prime minister received from Milchan.

According to Netanyahu, his former attorney, the late Jacob Weinroth, told him there was no problem with accepting the gifts. Netanyahu also argued that the value of the gifts was not excessive, and that it was possible that his wife had asked Milchan to buy her things without the prime minister knowing. As for his addressing issues affecting Milchan, Netanyahu argued that his motives were always appropriate.

Favorable pressin return for benefits

Most of Sunday’s deliberations on Case 2000 revolved around the significance of allegations that the prime minister failed to report, or at least reject and halt, a purported bribe offer from Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Another question is whether that alone justifies a charge of breach of trust.

Netanyahu allegedly told Mozes he would take steps to curb Yedioth’s rival daily, Israel Hayom, in exchange for more favorable coverage in Yedioth.

Hadad argued that in the absence of evidence on Netanyahu’s intent to follow through on such an agreement, the prime minister could not be charged with breach of trust. Hadad also argued that actions Netanyahu took were meant to deceive Mozes.

The prosecution argued that Netanyahu’s actions reflect intent, and that the very fact of discussing the offer violated the public’s trust.

Last week Netanyahu’s attorneys presented their arguments regarding Case 4000. In those proceedings, the prime minister is suspected of actions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the former controlling shareholder of Bezeq, Israel’s dominant telecom company.

In return, Elovitch allegedly offered favorable coverage on the Walla news website, which Elovitch also owned.

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