After Haaretz Report, Shaked Claims She Never Bargained With Netanyahu's Party

Yamina leader says she never tried to bribe the prime minister by offering him immunity in return for spot in Likud's slate

Jonathan Lis
Chaim Levinson
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Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at a ceremony marking the end of her tenure as justice minister, June 4, 2019.
Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at a ceremony marking the end of her tenure as justice minister, June 4, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Chaim Levinson

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked said she didn’t hold any negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party about joining its slate after an Haaretz report reveald she conveyed messages to the premier, offering him immunity from prosecution in his corruption cases in exchange for welcoming her back to the fold.

Speaking on Israel's public radio, Shaked said that "In the first weeks after the do-over election was announced, I had several options. There were people who thought that it would be good for Likud if I come onboard and that was it.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 35

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"My associates and those of the prime minister were in contact, but at any stage, those contacts didn't develop into negotiations. Nothing was offered to me nor did I offer something to anybody," Shaked said.

On Monday, Shaked did not deny negotiations were held, but said that if talks were held, she was not involved.

"Nobody on behalf of the prime minister has ever asked for immunity or spoken to me about it," she said, adding that the "attorney general is an honest man who acts relying on evidence, the law and his conscious."

The former justice minister said that the "distorted way in which Haaretz published the talks between my intermediates and Likud was meant to harm me and the attorney general. Nothing of what was mentioned in the report was said on my behalf and with my knowledge. It's possible that some people said things on their own behalf."

Retired Israeli army general and Democratic Union party member Yair Golan called on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to launch an investigation against Shaked after the report was published.

On Monday, Haaretz published recordings and correspondence showing that intermediaries on behalf of Shaked promised Netanyahu associates that she would offer him categorical support, as a means to keep him from standing trial.

>> Read more: Shaked relayed to Netanyahu: I control the attorney general, will make sure you get immunityHow Ayelet Shaked became the most powerful woman in Israeli politics

One of the liasions described her as being close to Mendelblit. “She knows how to influence him. She’s close to him. If she doesn’t control the Justice Ministry, obviously Bibi will go to jail,” he said.

Another of Shaked’s representatives suggested that “only she can get immunity for Bibi. She knows how to explain to the media why immunity is warranted. She has credibility. She isn’t Miri Regev” – a reference to the sports and culture minister, a member of Likud.

In a letter he send to Mendelblit, Golan claimed that the messages Shaked had relayed constitute breach of trust, an attempt to bribe the premier and an obstruction of legal proceedings

"These messages raise concern that a senior minister in Israel is turning her office and her authority into tools in a political and opportunist negotiation that is meant to help a suspect escape the court," he wrote the attorney general. 

Shaked denied the report on Monday, stating that it was "an ugly attempt to besmirch me. The statements quoted are indeed very grave, but they have nothing to do with me and were not uttered at my directive. I never spoke to the attorney general about criminal cases, especially not about the Netanyahu cases. I trust that the public is smart enough [not to believe this]."  

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is number 10 on Democratic Union's slate, responded to the report as well: "This is an obvious attempt to create a bribery deal in order to get into the club of Netanyahu loyalists. This corrupt deal, if it happened, is the swan song of the corrupt who destroy Israeli democracy."

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz also blasted the contacts between Shaked and Netanyahu. "Ayelet Shaked and Benjamin Netanyahu are two disconnected politicians who only care about themselves, their seats and the absurd immunity laws... the recordings that were revealed, whether [the statements] were uttered at Shaked's behest or not, show the lie endorsed by the right: Immunity above all. It's time to replace Shaked and Netanyahu's leadership with a leadership that cares for the people first." 

Nitzan Horowitz, the chair of the Meretz Party that has merged with the Democratic Union, called the report proof that Israel conducts itself "like a banana republic."

"The attorney general is in Shaked's back pocket, a thousand denials won't help her. Such an offer by 'Shaked associates' is a corruption of the entire system," he added. 

Meanwhile, Likud stated: "Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn't need any politician to claim that the absurd claims against him are completely unfounded and unprecedented."