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Netanyahu Is No Victim

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Golan Heights, on November 24, 2019. 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Golan Heights, on November 24, 2019. Credit: AFP

At the conclusion of Benjamin Netanyahu’s last round of questioning by police in Case 4000 (August 2018), the prime minister apparently felt a need to take his leave of the investigators. He sounded very far from the man who tried to etch in the public awareness the concept of “investigating the investigators.” “I have no complaints,” he told the investigators. “You’re doing your job.” We’re trying to do it in a fair and professional manner, replied the investigator.

“I really have no complaints,” Netanyahu repeated, “I have other complaints. They aren’t …” If it’s related to the investigation we’ll be happy to hear. Netanyahu clarified for a third time: “No, look I’ll tell you. I think that there’s a very serious problem in the State of Israel, that we have media concentration that doesn’t exist in the Western world.” From here it continued with the same familiar, endless monologue.

A gift in the guise of media coverage really is very unusual on the criminal landscape. It may be a precedent. On the other hand “tailoring” a new criminal construct, which is being polished up for the first time on our senior officials, really is not a precedent. For Ehud Olmert they invented a new crime. The State Prosecutor’s Office did not know how to deal with the large amounts of money that he received for years from American businessman Moshe Talansky. It couldn’t exactly be described as “bribery,” because Talansky received very little from Olmert.

On the other hand, the prosecutors thought that it was not logical to exempt the receipt of such a significant amount of money without any punishment. They invented a new construct: A minister is obligated to report on his wealth to the state comptroller. If not, it can be claimed that he deceived the comptroller. In other words, Olmert committed a crime of “fraudulent receipt of an item(s).”

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was also alleged to have committed the same precedent-setting crime. The investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the illegal fundraising affair set a precedent.

In the investigation and accusations against Ariel Sharon, many precedents were set in the straw companies and Cyril Kern affairs. The penal law often is not adapted to the habits of senior officials, at least those who have a sugar daddy who gives them money for years. Often the billionaire doesn’t really need a franchise or a government contract.

The billionaire wants respect, prestige, close association with a senior official, the ability to discuss Iran with the prime minister in his office.

Many people want to do business with someone who is close to the prime minister.

This story is true mainly regarding Case 1000. Case 4000 is simpler. The tycoon is Israeli, and he wants specific things. One of Netanyahu’s lines of defense is that he doesn’t help friends. His lawyers cite state witness Nir Hefetz, who said that he knew the prime minister as someone who isn’t grateful to his friends. Coming from him it sounded almost like a compliment.

It turns out that Netanyahu repeatedly went out of his way to help Shaul Elovitch. He instructed his bureau chief David Sharan to issue a letter that was important to Bezeq; he didn’t allow Gilad Erdan to continue as communications minister; he fired the ministry’s director general, Avi Berger, whom Bezeq hated.

Netanyahu also instructed the new director general, Shlomo Filber, to help Bezeq. Anyone who claims that Netanyahu acted according to the recommendations of the professionals in the Communications Ministry doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s enough to read Filber’s testimony to understand how untrue that is. I did grave things, admitted the state witness. Judging by his attempts at concealment in real time, it’s clear that Netanyahu also realized all along that what he was doing was criminal.