Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who claims he is the victim
of persecution, proposes to turn the tables on his enemies when his case comes to
At the start of his campaign for re-election on April 9, the prime minister adopted the desperate measure of addressing the nation at prime time on Jan. 7. The speech was short but revealing, say DEBKAfile’s analysts. It contained 12 news flashes pertaining to his defense tactics before and during a potential court hearing of the cases against him.
The first group consisted of four points:
- Acceptance that he can’t escape indictment for bribery.
- That this decision by the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblitt, will be made public before the elections.
- As part of his rearguard action for delaying publication, he demanded the chance to confront the three state witnesses against him – Nir Hefetz, Shlomo Filber and Harry Haraw – even in public, in order to rebut their testimonies.,
- He asked why witnesses in his favor were not called to testify. Netanyahu referred in particular to the business regulator Dr. Asaf Eilat, who knew at first hand that the prime minister, then acting communication minister, had not intervened in the merger between YES TV channel and the Bezeq telecommunications company. This charge is part of the bribery case.
The prime minister then brought out 8 points as the core of his defense strategy in a trial:
- Charged with soliciting Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Yediot Aharonot daily, for good publicity, Netanyahu asked rhetorically why other politicians were not under investigation. Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Future party held many meetings with the same Arnon Mozes. He then erased mention of those meetings from his diary. The prime minister was clearly preparing the ground to force the police to open investigations against a whole row of politicians on the same charge that he faces of illegally soliciting the media for favorable coverage.
- In his speech, Netanyahu cited the figure 43. He was referring to the number of lawmakers who performed in favor of Mozes by voting for a bill to force the competition, the free daily “Israel Today,” to charge a fee. Party leaders and their members were rewarded with favorable coverage in Mozes publications. The prime minister will claim that if this sort of transaction between politicians and the media counts as bribery, then they are all as guilty as him; and if not, he too is innocent.
- Netanyahu’s attorneys have been drafting subpoenas for most of the top layer of national politicians and lawmakers for cross-questioning if Netanyahu goes on trial.
- Another long list covers public figures, newspaper editors and senior journalists who will be grilled minutely on their every meeting with a politician, every news story they wrote and any remuneration they received.
- The Netanyahu trial – if and when it takes place – will see a long parade of top politicians, past and present, trooping into the court room and facing defense counsel in the witness box, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and others.
- Netanyahu’s defense attorneys are planning to call hundreds of witnesses of high rank for court hearings that could go on for years,
- In his address to the nation on Monday night, the prime minister laid this time bomb on the desk of the attorney general and state prosecutor. He made it clear that if they propose to go all the way with the charges against him, of which he declares himself innocent, he will fight back with no holds barred or mercy for the highest and public and media figures in the land. He will demand that the attorney general act on the same principle – that no one is above the law as applied to himself – and call them to give testimony under oath. If they are incriminated, then charges must be filed against them too.
- The prime minister spoke Monday night with angry resolve. He conveyed the the impression that if he is brought to trial on charges which he believes are groundless, then he will also bring down his political and media persecutors. By facing the nation, he threw the gauntlet down for the attorney general.