On Monday Haaretz revealed that emissaries acting on behalf of Yamina chairwoman Ayelet Shaked made a proposal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that raises suspicions of a political bribery deal: In return for restoring her membership to the Likud party, Shaked would use her influence with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to get him to support moves to give the premier immunity from the corruption charges pending against him, subject to a hearing.
According to the report, one of Shaked’s representatives said, “She’s like this with Mendelblit,” using his fingers to display a tight connection. “She controls him, she knows how to influence him. She’s close to him. If she doesn’t control the Justice Ministry, it’s clear that Bibi will go to jail.”
Another emissary promised that “only she can bring Bibi immunity. She knows how to explain to the media why immunity is warranted. She has credibility; she’s not Miri Regev,” a reference to the culture and sports minister.
Following the expose, Democratic Union candidates Yair Golan and Yair Fink demanded that the attorney general launch an investigation into Shaked. The demand is justified: Shaked portrays herself as a clean politician, a young alternative free of corruption. The possibility that her associates sought to help the prime minister evade justice cannot be ignored. A public servant with great power cannot exploit her authority and the confidence of her voters, and one cannot look away from possible political horse-trading of this type.
In response to the report Shaked argued that there had not been any negotiating between her and the Likud as part of her return to the political arena. “If the statements quoted were said by anyone they are indeed very grave, but they have nothing to do with me and were not uttered with my knowledge,” she said. “I have never spoken to the attorney general about criminal cases, especially not about the Netanyahu cases.” She subsequently said that the way things were presented was “distorted” and “aimed at harming me and the attorney general.”
But Shaked’s denial is not enough. The public is entitled to know whether the former justice minister, who last week even declared her intention to run for prime minister in the future, was indeed involved in what appears to be a bribe, obstruction of justice and breach of trust.
It is also in Shaked’s interest, since she presumably wants to clear her name and dispel these disturbing doubts. Although his name was brought into this through no fault of his own, the attorney general must prove his independence and order an immediate examination of these suspicions.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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