Netanyahu Lashes Out at Mandelblit Over Interview

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Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu slammed an interview given by State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit to Hadashot News about the corruption investigations against him. “A program like this, broadcast on the eve of the decision that the State Attorney must make, raises serious questions” about Mandelblit’s objectivity and ability to make a fair decision. “This is an unprecedented action in the annals of Israeli justice. I have many criticisms of what I saw and I will share them when I return from Chad,” said Netanyahu, who left for on a state visit to Chad on Motzoei Shabbos.

Netanyahu was responding to a report on Hasashot News that purported to show the timeline of the investigations against Netanyahu, leading to what is expected to be a recommendation by Mandelblit that Netanyahu should be prosecuted on corruption charges. A weekend report said that Mandelblit had made up his mind to recommend that Netanyahu be prosecuted in Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla News case. Mandelblit will inform Netanyahu of his decision in the coming weeks and set a date for a hearing in which the prime minister will be able to present his version of the events.

The Hadashot News report Motzoei Shabbos also discussed other cases, alleging further corruption, and in a statement Netanyahu’s attorneys said that all of the allegations were inflated and easily refuted. For example, the report claimed that Netanyahu received “thousands of dollars worth” of cigars from associate Arnon Milchin, while an examination of the receipts indicated that Milchin spent nowhere near that amount on cigars for himself, much less on Netanyahu – and that Milchin had bought similar gifts for other politicians, including Yair Lapid, Shimon Peres and others. “They want to try Netanyahu on cigars while they have yet to open an investigation into the collection of pens that Ehud Olmert received, worth NIS 1.2 million.”

The Likud on Motzoei Shabbos released a video on social media, claiming that the new report, along with other recent reports, was an attempt by the left to manipulate Mandelblit into recommending an indictment. “For three years the left and the media have been persecuting the State Attorney,” the video says. “They have been harassing him in the street, in the grocery store, and even in the synagogue; we won’t forget how they harassed him when he tried to say Kaddish for his mother, and he had to be rescued by a bodyguard.” The video shows footage of that incident.

Case 4000 is the influence-peddling probe that alleges that Netanyahu offered his  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.