The police have made their recommendations, but the saga of the corruption investigation against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is far from over. As the police recommendations to prosecutors are just that, the next development in the case will come from justice officials – particularly Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit – and due to the procedures that the justice system follows, it could be many months before that development comes.
With the submission of the material that police collected and collated in their investigation to prosecutors, the Prosecutors’ Office now will begin analyzing it, and will weigh the legal worthiness of the case – i.e., whether or not the state could win the case in court, and whether there are actual prosecutable offenses. As the prospective defendant in this investigation is the prime minister, the final decision on handing down an indictment belongs to Mandelblit – who, analysts told Globes Wednesday, is likely to be in no hurry to make a decision, given its weightiness.
If there are prosecutable offenses, Justice Ministry experts and members of Mandelblit’s staff will determine what they are – and that decision, too, is expected to take some time. For example, police said that in Case 1000, the receipt of cigars and champagne by Netanyahu from Israeli-American millionaire Arnon Milchin was a quid pro quo for favors the prime minister did for Milchin. The prime minister has claimed that he actually acted against Milchin’s interests in the specific instances named by police – and that he received far fewer gifts than police claimed. If a direct connection between the gifts and a specific favor cannot be established, prosecutors will be unable to defend charges of bribery in court – although they could make a case for breach of trust, which would not necessarily result in a jail term, or require Netanyahu to step down as prime minister.
As far as the other case against the prime minister is concerned – the alleged conspiracy between Netanyahu and Yediot Acharonot publisher Arnon Mozes to shut down rival newspaper Yisrael Hayom in exchange for more positive coverage in Mozes’s newspaper – Netanyahu said in a speech Tuesday night after police presented their recommendations that it was he who was most opposed to that law, to the extent that he broke up his last government to prevent the law that would have closed the rival paper down – legislation against free distribution of newspapers – from coming to a Knesset vote. “This is a bad joke,” Netanyahu said. “Before they prosecute me, let them prosecute the 43 other MKs who voted in favor of it on its first reading, and let them evaluate the coverage those MKs got from Mozes, as opposed to the unending attacks on me, which appear daily in that newspaper.”
Even if prosecutors do come up with charges against Netanyahu, it is likely that the prime minister will be given an opportunity – or several opportunities – to convince prosecutors not to indict him at hearings that, while not legally required, are generally customary in cases involving public officials. The time gap between the decisions that need to be made, the hearings, and the final decision by Mandelblit could take many months. “In trials, especially involving alleged white collar crimes, there is no black and white,” analysts told Globes. “These are questions of not just evidence, but also of judicial policy. We could be looking at many months before any decisions are made.”