Justice Officials ‘Irate’ Over Police Bungling of Recommendations, Reports Say

YERUSHALAYIM -
Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivers a statement after the police recommendations Tuesday night. (Israeli Pool/via Reuters)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not the only one with harsh words for police regarding their investigation into alleged corruption on his part: The Prosecutor’s Office, which is supposed to act on the police recommendations to pursue charges against the prime minister, is up in arms over what they said was the “incomplete work” on the cases, with police apparently rushing to make their recommendations in order to “star” in the media Tuesday night.

Hadashot News quoted irate Justice Ministry officials who called the manner in which the recommendations were made “absurd. We received the material only on Wednesday afternoon, nearly a full day after police made their announcement in the media. All we had when the recommendations were made was the same press release the media had.” That indicates that police were more interested in the public relations aspect of the announcement, as opposed to handling it in a professional manner.

In addition, police did not complete their work. “The files are only 95 percent complete,” the officials were quoted as saying. “In recent days the impression given in the media has been that State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit was holding up the progress of the recommendations, but we have been issuing updates on a daily basis. There is no doubt that investigators have more work to do in order to complete the case.” The material as presented Wednesday is not suitable for prosecutorial work, they said.

It is not clear why police were in such a hurry to make their announcement, given the incompleteness of the investigation. “Meanwhile, with their announcement, police have blown up a very large balloon” that they may find will end up popping in their faces. Not all the allegations are backed up by evidence, they said.

Police on Tuesday night recommended that prosecutors bring charges against Netanyahu in two cases: Case 1000, in which Netanyahu was accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, mostly cigars and champagne, and Case 2000, in which the prime minister allegedly leaned on the publishers of Yisrael Hayom to limit distribution of their free newspaper in order to benefit from better coverage in rival newspaper Yediot Acharonot. Police also recommended that Milchin and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yediot Acharonot, be indicted for their roles in the cases.

Channel One, meanwhile, said prosecutors were “surprised” at the portrayal of Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid as a “key witness” against Netanyahu. Among other things, Netanyahu is accused of trying to help Milchin by encouraging the passage of a law that allows new immigrants and returning residents to bring assets with them from abroad and avoid reporting on them to Israeli tax authorities for 10 years. This was attributed as a favor by Netanyahu to Milchin, part of the quid pro quo between the two. It emerged that a key witness in this aspect of the case was none other than Lapid, who was Netanyahu’s finance minister in the last government.

As far as prosecutors were concerned, Lapid was “no different than other witnesses” in the case, Channel One quoted the officials as saying. It was police who portrayed Lapid as a star witness, and the motivation for that is not clear, they added.