A ‘Dirty Trick’ – or a Crime?

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lawyers at the Jerusalem District court as his corruption trial begins, May 2020.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently denied any connection to an alleged plot to embarrass the judges in his trial by recording one of their relatives, as reported last week on Ilana Dayan’s investigative television show “Uvda” (“Fact”).

Dayan’s evidence came from a secret recording of attorney Ariel Roth, a partner of Netanyahu’s defense attorney Amit Hadad. In this video, Roth spoke with a businesswoman (later identified as Orit Greenberg) about potentially recording one of the judge’s relatives, with the goal of embarrassing the judges and perhaps delaying the trial.

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Roth also told Orit that after the recording was made, she would have to conduct financial negotiations with the person who made it in order to obtain it.

Roth initially denied that the meeting ever happened. After the report was broadcast, he and Hadad both claimed that “Uvda” had conducted a sting operation and that the program falsely and tendentiously depicted Roth as having furthered this plot.

But this denial has now been cast into question. The man who arranged the meeting between Roth and the businesswoman was ultra-Orthodox journalist Menachem Gsheid. In an article in the daily Israel Hayom on Monday, Gsheid revealed additional details about the circumstances behind the meeting.

Granted, he accused “Uvda” of setting Roth up, but the information he provided in the article indicates otherwise. Gsheid said the information that one of the judges’ relatives “had spoken angrily about Netanyahu” was obtained a few months ago from “the prime minister’s circle.”

Gsheid didn’t deny that an attempt may have been made to obtain a recording of the relative. But he insisted that he had no information about any involvement by the prime minister or those around him in this attempt.

Embarrassing statements by a judge’s relative don’t disqualify the judge from hearing a case, so it’s not possible to be certain whether attempting to obtain such a recording would violate the law against obstructing justice. There’s no precedent for this. Another possibility is that this behavior could violate the law against interfering with a civil servant doing his job.

Nevertheless, the information revealed in the “Uvda” report and Gsheid’s article raise suspicions that as part of an attempt to protect the prime minister from standing trial, red lines were crossed. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit must order the police to open an investigation to determine whether such lines were indeed crossed, and whether this was done with the prime minister’s knowledge.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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