333 Witnesses to Testify in Netanyahu Cases

YERUSHALAYIM -
mandelblit
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announcing the indictment against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Indictments will be handed down in the coming weeks against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over three corruption and bribery allegations against him, State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit informed Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein Monday. If Netanyahu wishes to avail himself of his Knesset immunity, he has 30 days to do so, Mandelblit said in a letter to the two.

The trials against Netanyahu will take place in the Yerushalayim Central Court. Among the witnesses who will be called to testify in the trial are MK Yair Lapid, former government minister Tzippy Livni, Minister Gilad Erdan, former Netanyahu aide David Shimron, and Netanyahu’s uncle, Natan Milikovsky, among others. Accompanying the letter from Mandelblit was an update of the indictments, including the list of witnesses. Altogether, 333 witnesses will be called on to testify, news reports said.

Like any other MK, Netanyahu is eligible to protect himself from being tried by asking for immunity, which he would get if it were approved by a Knesset committee. If Netanyahu were to ask for immunity, it would likely delay any trial, since staffing such a committee would be nearly impossible under the current caretaker government, which would be reluctant to make such a move.

The trial would have to wait until a future committee approved or disapproved the request, and that could likely only take place once a government has been formed. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office have said that he is unlikely to ask for immunity, but Netanyahu has not explicitly voiced a position on this yet.

Netanyahu is to be indicted in three cases, including Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, mostly cigars and champagne; 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; and Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla News Case, an 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. The indictments against Netanyahu in Cases 1000 and 2000 focus on breach of trust issues, while Case 4000 includes a bribery charge as well.