TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation Tuesday night and again on Wednesday that the “outrageous” and “biased” cases against him are “unfounded.”
He also predicted that not only will the government complete its current term, but come election time in 2019, he will be reelected. For the first time, the prime minister also addressed the news that political rival and key witness Yair Lapid would testify against him.
In a rousing televised address to the nation Tuesday night, Netanyahu said that the only thing that ever interested him since his days as an officer in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal was the good of the country.
If he had wanted to become a rich man, he said, “I would a long time ago have been in a different place.”
“What motivates me is one thing,” he stated, “to ensure the future of our state. Therefore I say to you, this government will fulfill its term, and together with the rest of the ministers of the government we will continue to turn Israel into a rising world power — an economic, technological and military superpower that enjoys its best international position ever.”
His actions were “not for cigars from a friend. Not for press coverage. Not for anything. Just for the state,” he reiterated.
Hours before, the Israel Police published its recommendations that the prime minister be indicted on corruption charges in two cases.
The so-called Case 1000 charges Netanyahu and his wife Sara with receiving illegal gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of striking a deal with media mogul Arnon (Noni) Mozes whereby the premier would weaken the Sheldon Adelson-backed daily Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage in Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Netanyahu, however, not only did not support the legislation, he openly worked against the bill in question, raising some questions about the police case.
In his speech, Netanyahu suggested that the police had decided on the recommendations even before the investigations began, saying that Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich was not acting out of “objectivity.”
He also took apart each of the charges against him, and in the case of the accusation that he received gifts from Milchan in order to advance tax laws that would save the producer millions, Netanyahu claimed the exact opposite, saying that he had actually pushed laws to Milchan’s detriment. In addition, the premier asserted, the work he did with U.S. authorities to procure a visa for Milchan was not the result of gifts that the mogul gave him, but rather because of clandestine intelligence Milchan gathered when he served as an agent in the past.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu for the first time addressed Lapid’s role as a key witness and, in an attempt to criticize the investigation, stated that the Yesh Atid party leader was only questioned by police “for an hour” on the Milchan connection.
“It was an investigation lasting a year and a half and now it emerges that based on that testimony Lapid is a key witness,” Netanyahu asserted.
“This is the same Lapid who vowed to topple me at any cost,” he added.
“He is a good friend of Milchan, which isn’t a sin, but he is; he was employed by him,” said Netanyahu, referring to Lapid’s job at the billionaire’s New Regency Films decades ago.
Netanyahu further alleged that in his role as finance minister, Lapid discussed Milchan’s interests, yet “I get [indictment] recommendations, and Lapid gets applause.”
He also said that the monetary value of the gifts Milchan is alleged to have given him was “inflated … beyond recognition” in order to “reach the magic number.”
After reading the document with the police recommendations, Netanyahu said, he concluded that “it’s biased, extreme, has holes like Swiss cheese and holds no water.”
Regarding Case 2000, in which the police recommended the premier be indicted for a quid pro quo with Yedioth Aharonoth publisher Mozes, Netanyahu said that he specifically voted against the law that would have weakened Israel Hayom, risking his political career in 2014 and calling new elections because of it.
“Since I was elected prime minister, there was hardly a single day in which I was not subjected to slander and false claims,” he said. ” Over these years there have been no less than 15 investigations against me with the goal of bringing me down. They all began with explosive headlines, live broadcasts from the studios and some of them even with noisy police recommendations [to indict], just like today.”
And, he stated, “all these attempts ended with nothing, because I know the truth: I tell you, these too will end with nothing.”
He added that, in any case, in a democratic country police recommendations are not automatically followed by indictments.
“I am not saying this defiantly, but as a basic fact of our democracy. Israel is a state of law, and according to the law, the police do not determine and decide, but only the authorized legal bodies.” He pointed out that over half of the police recommendations on indictments are not accepted.
“I am sure that the truth will come to light,” Netanyahu concluded his remarks. “And I am certain that in the next elections that will take place on time, I will regain your faith – with God’s help.”