Sources close to the Justice Ministry have been circulating an assessment in recent days about the expected fate of the two criminal investigations centering on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to this assessment, the hundreds of thousands of shekels that Israeli and foreign businessmen allegedly spent funding the Netanyahu family’s consumption habits will put Netanyahu in the dock, while his secret talks with Yedioth Ahronoth owner Arnon Mozes, at least one of which was recorded, will come close to the threshold of indictment but will not cross it.
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The purpose of delivering this assessment to the media is to convince the public that justice will be done even if only one of the two cases is translated into an indictment.
But it is to be hoped that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit understands that the grave nature of the evidence published over the past few days does not support this possibility. The so-called “Case 2000” is seen as containing strong elements of bribery, especially in light of the additional quotes from contacts between Netanyahu and Mozes reported Friday by Channel 2, and which followed the exposés of Haaretz’s Gidi Weitz.
According to Channel 2, Netanyahu was quoted offering to mediate between Mozes and international businesspeople for the latter’s purchase of the Yedioth Ahronoth group – all or part of it. What’s more, according to these quotes, when Mozes asked Netanyahu what “the bottom line” was – that is, how a quick solution could be found to the commercial problem of rival newspaper Israel Hayom – Netanyahu replied, “We can legislate it.”
According to the quote, specific Knesset members’ names were mentioned who might be able to help promote the legislation. Netanyahu even dared suggest that a “special committee” be established to shorten the timeline.
There is no other way to interpret these crucial quotes than as shameful subversion of the legislative process – the holy of holies in a democratic state – to the personal gain of the prime minister linked to the personal gain of a businessman. If this does not constitute bribery, what is the value of the legal code and what is the meaning of the term “rule of law”?
The attorney general cannot dally. He must act quickly and resolutely, and use the power he has to issue indictments against anyone who dares undermine public faith for the good of private interests. Any other decision will cast a heavy shadow over the institution of the attorney general and Israeli democracy.