Abuse of Power

It’s impossible to know for certain what caused the Likud to drop from 35 seats in the April elections to 32 seats in last week’s vote (the drop was even sharper considering that Moshe Kachlon, who won four seats in April running as head of his Kulanu party, had merged with the Likud this time around). But it stands to reason that the indictments hanging over the head of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu played a role, and that raises questions as to whether all the probes were politically motivated.

For instance, in Case 2000, Netanyahu is being charged with breach of trust for trying to cut a deal with the publisher of Yediot Acharonot for better coverage. Politicians and reporters have been serving one another’s interests since the founding of the state, but only now, when it comes to Netanyahu, has it become grounds for an indictment.

But things get much more sinister. Recent reports, aired by Channel 12 news, reveal that police broke all the rules in their efforts to get Bezeq majority owner Shaul Elovitch to turn state’s witness against Netanyahu. In that case, known as 4000, the prime minister is suspected of offering regulatory benefits to Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage of him and his family on the latter’s Walla news site.

During one of the times Elovitch was in police detention, his son, who was also being held, met with him in a room designated for detainees to talk freely with their attorneys. Police installed bugs in the room and sent the younger Elovitch to convince his father to fire his lawyer in favor of one who would agree to a state’s witness deal. “They [the police] are giving me the impression that you have something that can get me out,” the son says, pressuring his father to tell the police whatever they wanted to hear.

In response, Shaul Elovitch said, “I can consult a hundred more lawyers and it won’t change. They [the police] tried to turn me into a state witness. They killed me. I need to lie in order to be a state witness because I have nothing to testify about. They are currently trying to get me to confess, confess, confess.”

No less shocking is the pressure that was used to get other key witnesses to agree to testify against Netanyahu. Yediot Acharonot, not a big fan of Netanyahu, detailed how one witnesses, Nir Hefetz, was warned that he was putting his family in danger by not agreeing to incriminate the prime minister. “It’s doubtful if experienced criminals could have endured the pressure,” the paper said.

Another state’s witness broke under pressure. “Tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it,” the paper reported him telling his interrogators.

The revelations sparked outrage, as they should have, with Israel Bar Association Chairman Avi Himi saying that “all boundaries have been crossed” and calling on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate. “It is inconceivable that the police try to harm a person’s right to adequate legal representation, and try to get an attorney fired to achieve their goals,” he said.

It’s doubtful that the attorney general will order a probe, especially now that the objectives have apparently been achieved. The big loser isn’t Netanyahu, but democracy and the rule of law.