TEL AVIV – The police recommendations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted on charges of corruption are not backed up by enough evidence, sources in the state prosecution reportedly said according to a shocking TV report broadcast Wednesday.
The report, from Hadashot news and translated by the Times of Israel, said that according to sources, “Not everything asserted in the recommendations is backed up by the evidence” and the police “inflated the balloon to the very limit.” The report also said the prosecution clashed repeatedly with the police over the case, with the police saying it could be wrapped up in eight months and continuing beyond that would be a waste of time.
However, in light of the report, the Justice Ministry issued a rare statement on Thursday, emphasizing that the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the state prosecution “are working in full coordination and excellent cooperation with the Israel Police.”
The prosecution, however, seems to believe that any indictments, if filed, would not happen before late 2019, the report said. A senior prosecutor will need to go through the entire file before making a recommendation and then hand it over to State Prosecutor Shani Nitzan to do the same. After that, Mandelblit will make a decision and then it will likely take several more months before Netanyahu receives a hearing date.
The sources also said that, as is, the case file isn’t complete and should never have been handed over to the prosecution. Instead, more investigative work needs to be carried out.
“It is not clear to us why there was this mad rush to publish the recommendations yesterday,” the prosecution sources were quoted as saying. The case file, they asserted, was “emphatically not ready for transfer at this time” and “further investigations will certainly be required.”
According to the sources, Mandelblit has been placed “in an impossible situation,” with the police trying to “spin” a lie wherein he attempted to delay publishing the recommendations.
The critique prompted a response from the Justice Ministry saying that the police recommendations were released “with the advance approval of the attorney general and the state attorney.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Israel Police’s announcement about the completion of the investigation in cases 1000 and 2000 was done in accordance with the attorney general’s instructions,” the statement said.
“The legal position concerning these cases will be formulated only after a thorough examination by prosecution officials of the evidence gathered in the investigation,” the ministry further noted.
Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu slammed the police recommendations and said that the “outrageous” and “biased” cases against him are “unfounded.”
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. In his defense, 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.
Netanyahu also suggested that the police decided on the recommendations even before the investigations began, saying that Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich was not acting out of “objectivity.”
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 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.”