State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan can certainly try to facilitate an indictment against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Case 4000, but he is unlikely to succeed in moving an indictment forward, Netanyahu attorney Amit Haddad told Army Radio Thursday. Responding to reports Wednesday night that Nitzan advised State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit to recommend that Netanyahu be indicted on corruption charges, Haddad said that “we are light years away from an indictment in this case. There is no place to even discuss this, there can be no other decision than not to file an indictment on bribery and corruption charges in Case 4000.”
Case 4000 is the influence-peddling probe that alleges that Netanyahu offered his good services to Israeli billionaire Shaul Elovich in return for positive coverage on the Walla news site. According to police, Elovich offered Netanyahu a quid pro quo deal of “better coverage” for the prime minister on the Walla site if the prime minister would help him get out of the financial bind he found himself in. At the heart of the scandal are favors that were allegedly done for Elovich, the majority shareholder in Bezeq and the Walla news site.
The investigation has focused on benefits Elovich allegedly received in his efforts to take control of Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage of Netanyahu on the Walla news site. Netanyahu and Elovich met several times during the period that Netanyahu was Communications Minister, the report said. Police said in the recommendations that a “solid case” existed that Netanyahu actively, and not just passively, aided Elovich by easing regulations on monopolies, which had prevented Bezeq from acquiring the YES satellite organization.
To accomplish that, Netanyahu fired Communications Ministry director-general Avi Berger and hired his loyalist and ex-campaign manager Shlomo Filber in order to ensure that government policy improperly favored Elovitch. The positive coverage for Netanyahu was coordinated via Netanyahu’s wife and Elovitch, his wife, Nir Chefetz, and some of Elovitch’s top Walla employees. Police also recommended that Elovich be tried on bribery charges.
On Wednesday, Hadashot News reported that Nitzan had discussed the case with Mandelblit, and encouraged him to go ahead with the indictment recommendation – required for the process to move forward. Police have also recommended that Netanyahu be indicted in Case 4000.
Haddad said that there were precedents that were similar to Netanyahu’s situation, “In 2004, it appeared that everything would lead to an indictment against then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Police recommended he be indicted” on bribery and corruption charges, “the prosecution also recommended an indictment. In the end, the State Attorney decided not to move forward. The case was thus closed,” Haddad told Army Radio. As far as Case 4000 was concerned, Haddad said that “there were no crimes committed here. Did Netanyahu give anyone anything? No, and the facts prove that.”
Speaking at a conference Thursday, Mandelblit said that he would make his decision on how to proceed soon. “Our staff is working on the cases and examining the facts, in order to enable a decision to be made. We are not ‘persecuting’ anyone, but just pursuing justice. We will make our decisions based only on evidence and the law, and no other factors will be considered. We will do everything we can to work as quickly as possible, but we will not compromise professionalism,” Mandelblit told the Globes conference in Tel Aviv.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Netanyahu termed the report on Shai Nitzan a “leak,” saying that the leaks and “media pressure are designed to push for an unjustified indictment against the prime minister, at any price. We are positive that based on the evidence, and with the background noise of the media removed, it will be proven that there is nothing here.”