TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused authorities of using intimidation tactics to force suspects into testifying against him in a series of graft investigations.
The charge comes days after Netanyahu’s former media advisor, Nir Hefetz, signed a state witness deal, joining two other former confidants, Ari Harow and Shlomo Filber.
“I read about a man who was taken for investigation, on whom they exerted masses of pressure and told him, ‘Lie, be a state’s witness’ and he refuses. It is difficult to believe that in the State of Israel, in our 2018 democracy, such things occur,” Netanyahu said in a video uploaded on his Facebook page as he was flying from Washington to New York.
“So I want to say a few words about the industry of state’s witnesses. They take people who claim that they carried out some offence, place them under arrest, terrify them and say to them: ‘Your life is over. Your family’s lives are over. We’re taking practically everything from you, including your freedom. Do you want to be free of this? There is one way out—slander Netanyahu. It doesn’t matter if you tell hallucinatory lies. The main thing is that you slander Netanyahu,” he continued.
“When there is something real, you don’t need a single state’s witness, and when there isn’t anything, even one thousand state’s witnesses won’t help. This obsessive hunt for one state’s witness and then another and another is the best proof that there is nothing,” he said.
“So they will continue doing their thing and I will continue doing my thing, making history here for the State of Israel. The coming days will tell how important this visit is for Israel’s security,” he added.
He ended by thanking those who continue to support him, including his wife Sara, and his family. “It is heartwarming for us especially in these days. Thank you all very much,” he said.
Hefetz is expected to incriminate Netanyahu in both Case 1000 and Case 4000. The former aide will also testify in Case 1270, in which the prime minister is suspected of attempting to bribe judge Hila Gerstl with the position of attorney general in return for dismissing a case against Sara Netanyahu.
Israeli police lashed out at the prime minister’s accusations, slamming him for implicating wrongdoing from the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who approves all state witnesses.
“Netanyahu has shifted to plan B and is now taking aim at the attorney general,” Ynet news quoted law enforcement officials as saying.
“State witnesses are a crucial force in investigations of this kind and they cannot be ignored, and yet still the person who approves every witness and the conditions of their signature are the state prosecutor and the attorney general.”
The claimed that even without the witnesses the case against Netanyahu is “strong” and “could have gone with an indictment.”
Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay slammed Netanyahu for “going after the attorney general’s head” after his attack on Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh.
“There is no ‘state’s witnesses industry’ in Israel. There is an industry of government corruption and at the head of it is none other than Netanyahu itself,” Gabbay said. “The people of Israel deserve leadership that strengthens Israel and doesn’t attack its authorities.”
The so-called Case 4000 involves telecommunications company Bezeq. Filber reportedly claims to have been ordered by the prime minister to ease regulations on Bezeq in return for the phone company’s chief shareholder Shaul Elovitch giving Netanyahu positive coverage on his news site Walla.
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.
Case 3000 links aides to the prime minister to possible corruption involving a multi-billion-shekel deal to purchase submarines from a German shipbuilder.