Netanyahu Targets Israeli Media Over Corruption Probes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a handover ceremony for the new chief of staff on January 15, 2019 in Tel Aviv
AFP JACK GUEZ

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend claimed the corruption investigations against him are part of a conspiracy by the left and the media to oust him. 

“For three years  have hounded the attorney general to indict at any cost,” a new video posted on the prime minister’s Facebook page said according to a translation by the Times of Israel.

“At the grocery shop, in the street, at the synagogue. Will they succeed?”

https://www.facebook.com/Netanyahu/videos/277565792940126/

The video comes amid widespread but unsubstantiated Israeli media reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will heed recommendations by the police and the head of the State Prosecution’s Tax and Finance Department Liat Ben Ari calling for Netanyahu’s indictment.

Members of the opposition blasted the video, with Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay accusing the prime minister of targeting Mandelblit and the media.

Netanyahu is “forgetting his people and destroying Israel,” Gabbay said.

Shelly Yachimovich, also from the Labor Party, said the video constituted a threat against Mandelblit. “The goal is to use any means to prevent the attorney-general from filing an indictment, and ensuring that should he do so, his professional decision will be painted with the colors of treason.”

Deputy Knesset Speaker Yoel Hasson (Hatnuah) said the video was “a dark example of what will happen here if we don’t do everything to replace Netanyahu.”

MK Miki Zohar of Likud defended the video, saying it showed the “anti-democratic” and “violent pressure on the attorney general to indict.”

Other Likud MKs said Netanyahu’s legal woes were part of a “politicized witch hunt.”

On Thursday, Mandelblit seemed to say that he would refuse Netanyahu’s request that he postpone any announcements until after the April 9 elections.

Israel’s early elections, however, are “none of my business. … It’s not something that affects me,” Mandelblit told Channel 12 news. “I need to do my work as quickly as possible, although of course without compromising thoroughness and professionalism.”

“I am working as quickly as possible in order to get the work done and make the findings public — on condition that I am comfortable [with the findings] personally and professionally. Ultimately, it’s a question of professionalism.”

Earlier this month, Netanyahu took Israel’s judiciary to task on a number of counts: denying him a meeting with the states’ witnesses testifying against him; for not allowing other witnesses who could have testified in his favor to come forward; and for wrongly labeling the suspicions against him as bribery when no money changed hands.

Netanyahu faces three investigations against him: The so-called Case 4000 involves Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq. The prime minister is accused of ordering that regulations on Bezeq be eased 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 Aharonoth 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.

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