Ruling in Ashkelon Corruption Case Could Help Netanyahu

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni seen in October, 2015. (Edi Israel/Flash90)

Defense lawyers for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ took encouragement on Monday from a court ruling that said bribery in the form of favorable media coverage is by nature difficult to prove.

The Tel Aviv District Court convicted former Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni of various corruption charges including bribery, breach of trust and money laundering, but found him not guilty of illegally bartering for friendlier media coverage.

“Due to the nature and status of the media, caution must be exercised in attributing criminal offenses to the actions of media outlets,” Judge Limor Margolin-Yehidi wrote in her decision. As positive media coverage is intangible, it’s much harder to prove a quid pro quo arrangement than in cases of bribery where money changes hands, she explained, according to The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu stands accused in Case 4000 of entering into a quid pro quo with the owner of the Walla news site, which guaranteed improved coverage of the prime minister in exchange for major business benefits.

Netanyahu’s lawyers argued on Monday that the Ashkelon ruling can be cited to bolster the prime minister’s defense in Case 4000.

“The court acquitted the defendants of the charge that positive coverage is a bribe — and did not create that precedent,” the prime minister’s attorney said in a statement.