TEL AVIV – In a self-styled “dramatic” address to the nation Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took Israel’s judiciary to task on a number of counts: Allegedly denying him a meeting with the states’ witnesses testifying against him; purportedly not allowing other witnesses who could have testified in his favor to come forward; and for allegedly wrongly labeling the suspicions against him as bribery when no money was passed between hands.
“I want to emphasize, the judiciary is one of the cornerstones of Israeli democracy,” the prime minister began in a live televised address before he came out swinging against the police and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Netanyahu said that twice he demanded to meet with the state witnesses in order to “look them in the eye” and confront them with what he claimed is the truth but says he was denied on both occasions.
“Why are they scared? What are they hiding? I am not afraid. I do not have what to hide. Therefore, tonight, I repeat my demand for a confrontation with the state’s witnesses…I am certain that I am right,” he said.
“A prime minister also has the right to fair defense,” he added.
Netanyahu faces three investigations against him with the police recommending that he be indicted. The so-called Case 4000 involves Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq.
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.
In reference to the first investigation, Case 4000, Netanyahu said on Monday: “What are they talking about when they mention bribery? They’re talking about positive media coverage. Me? The person who is most hated by the media? It’s absurd!”
He continued by stating wryly that if he would initiate another disengagement like the 2005 evacuation from Gaza or presented a peace plan in which he agreed to divide Jerusalem or surrender Israel’s security, all of the investigations against him would be dropped – implicating that Israel’s largely left-leaning judiciary worked against him as a rightwing leader.