Daily Briefing #4504- With Mandelblit’s Intent to Indict, Israel Ventures into the Unknown

WITH MANDELBLIT’S INTENT TO INDICT,ISRAEL VENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN

 

Mandelblit Announces Intent to Indict Benjamin Netanyahu For Bribery:  Jonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2019 Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced late Thursday his intent to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

What Bibi’s Indictment Means:  Avi Bell, Tablet, Feb. 28, 2019 Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’sannouncement to the media, 40 days before general elections, that he intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery and breach of trust in three different cases was political drama of the highest order.

Netanyahu’s Legal War will Wait; it’s His Political Life He’s Fighting for Now:  David Horowitz, Times of Israel, Feb. 28, 2019 For the first time in the history of Israel, a serving prime minister was informed by the state legal hierarchy on Thursday that he is to be indicted for criminal offenses.

Dueling Narratives in Israel’s Election Campaign:  David Makovsky, The Washington Institute, Feb. 22, 2019On February 21, Israel’s two main centrist parties—Benny Gantz’s“Resilience” faction and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party—announced a merger, intensifying the sense that the country’s famously fractious multiparty elections will be a two-horse race this time around, with other parties relegated to the edges.

On Topic Links

The Netanyahu Investigations:  What Next After the Attorney General’s Announcement?: BICOM Briefing, Feb. 2019

The Netanyahu indictments: unfair and inevitable:  Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Feb. 28, 2019

Will Netanyahu Be Able To Form A Coalition?:  Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2019

Dershowitz Publishes Open Letter Defending Netanyahu in Corruption Cases:  The Jewish Voice, Feb. 28, 2019

MANDELBLIT ANNOUNCES INTENT TO INDICT

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU FOR BRIBERY

Jonah Jeremy Bob​​

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2019

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced late Thursday his intent to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. After months of speculation, Mandelblit announced an intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair; for breach of trust in Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair; and for breach of trust in Case 2000, the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair.

Case 2000 went down to the wire as Mandelblit overruled most of the prosecution, which wanted a bribery charge. The decision came despite a last-minute effort by Likud to get the High Court of Justice to block Mandelblit from announcing his decision before the elections. However, the court’s most conservative justice, Noam Sohlberg, rejected the request as being filed too late. Ironically, Sohlberg was part of a High Court panel that only a few hours earlier rejected an NGO’s attempts to compel Mandelblit to declare Netanyahu a suspect in Case 3000, the Submarine Affair.

Mandelblit has steadfastly resisted any attempts to link Netanyahu to Case 3000. Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party are neck and neck according to polls, and if the prime minister loses even a few seats due to the accusations against him for public corruption, it could turn the tide in the election.

Even if Netanyahu is reelected, there is a strong chance that Mandelblit, after holding a series of pre-indictment hearings with Netanyahu’s lawyers, will issue a final decision to indict him in the next three to 12 months. This could lead the High Court of Justice to force the prime minister’s resignation if he does not voluntarily step down.Sourcesclose to Mandelblit have previously told The Jerusalem Post that if the attorney-general moved to indict Netanyahu for the serious charge of bribery – as opposed to a lesser charge – he would not defend Netanyahu before the High Court if a petition was filed to force the prime minister to resign.

Mandelblit also closed the charges against Sara Netanyahu in Case 4000, despite recommendations by the police for her indictment, which many prosecutors also supported. The attorney-general also said he would likely indict Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch for bribery and obstruction of justice as well as his wife, Iris, and a range of other top Bezeq officials. In addition, he said he would likely indict YediotAharonot owner Arnon (Noni) Mozes for bribery.

However, he closed the cases against billionaire Arnon Milchan in Case 1000 and Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel in Case 2000. In one twist, Netanyahu’s lawyers have both demanded that the prosecution hand over more evidence against Netanyahu immediately, and asked the prosecution to withhold evidence until after the election so that it does not leak to the press.

There are four new revelations from the document of accusations:

1. On December 4, 2014, Netanyahu met with Mozes. He offers Netanyahu positive media coverage and to attack Netanyahu rivals Naftali Bennett and Moshe Kahlon with “all of my efforts.” Netanyahu responds describing to Mozes how he will pass the law that will weaken Israel Hayom and empower Mozes. The prosecution says that this was the moment where Netanyahu broke the law. Also, after the fifth of six meetings with Mozes, Netanyahu met with Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson and asked for his help to carry out what he had promised to Mozes.

2. In Case 4000, where Netanyahu got positive coverage from Walla in exchange for helping Walla owner Elovitch illegally make NIS 680 million, he ordered top aide Nir Hefetz not to pass on requests for articles by Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and his son Yair to get published on Walla until after he reviewed them. Netanyahu has denied he knew about Sara and Yair’s activities. The order to Hefetz is Mandelblit’sevidence that Netanyahu knew everything, including planting negative stories against Bennett and his family, President Reuven Rivlin and others.

3. We thought top Netanyahu aide Shlomo Filber was only involved in the Case 4000 media bribery affair. But Netanyahu is accused of summoning Filber late at night as a middleman also to advance billionaire Milchan’s interests in investing in the Keshet channel after Milchan gave Netanyahu hundreds of thousands of shekels in gifts.

4. Netanyahu allegedly received from billionaire Milchan NIS 267,254 in cigars, NIS 199,819 of champagne and NIS 10,900 for Sara for jewelry. The prosecution said Netanyahu knew about all of this, including gifts to Sara he denied knowing about. Netanyahu also allegedly summoned IDF Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot to provide Milchan with an IDF helicopter to go to Jordan for business. Netanyahu’s lawyers have told the Post that this was for businessman Ratan Tata to advance deals with Jordan, not for Milchan. But the prosecution says Netanyahu also met with Milchan’s accountant, Zeev Feldman, to ensure that the business plans were to benefit Milchan. [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

WHAT BIBI’S INDICTMENT MEANS                          

Avi Bell

Tablet, Feb. 28, 2019              

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement to the media, 40 days before general elections, that he intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery and breach of trust in three different cases was political drama of the highest order. There’s no gainsaying the importance to Israel’s politics and the election. But more importantly, Mandelblit’s announcement heralds a crisis for Israel’s democracy and the public image of its legal system.

Mandelblit’s announcement inserts law enforcement officials into the political arena in an unprecedented way, and on a very shaky legal foundation. If the legal theories that the attorney general is introducing against Netanyahu become general law, a considerable part of the democratic life of Israel will have to pass through police interrogation rooms. If they remain restricted to Netanyahu, the partisanship will permanently damage public trust in the Israeli legal system.

To be sure, Mandelblit’s announcement is only an interim step in the legal drama. Any actual indictment will have to wait for hearings in the attorney general’s office in which Netanyahu’s lawyers will be afforded the opportunity to attempt to dissuade Mandelblit from his chosen course. The hearings will take place after the election, and only in a year or so will Mandelblit be in a position to request that the Knesset lift Netanyahu’s immunity or formally file an indictment. And the political fallout will not end with the opinion polls now being conducted. It is likely that Mandelblit’s announcement will influence not only the number of votes received by the parties on April 9, but the coalition negotiations to follow.

Yet, while the ultimate political fallout remains unclear, the danger in the novel legal theories introduced by Mandelblit is stark. The criminal charges against the prime minister lack legal substance, and they threaten both the rule of law in Israel and the health of its democracy. Professor Alan Dershowitz said as much in several op-eds and an open letter to Mandelblit in recent months, and he is absolutely right.

A closer look at the three cases—known in Israel by their file numbers 1000, 2000 and 4000—in which Mandelblit hopes to file charges illustrates the point.

Case 1000 involves repeated small gifts to the prime minister—primarily cigars and champagne—from Arnon Milchan and other affluent supporters of Israel over more than a decade, and the provision by Netanyahu of assistance on the level of constituent service. The police had sought a bribery charge, but Mandelblit seeks to charge Netanyahu with “breach of trust,” a notoriously vaguely defined crime.

As Dershowitz wrote, “Everyone acknowledges that friends are permitted to give wine and cigars to friends, even if the recipient is the prime minister. The accusation is that Netanyahu took too many such gifts and made too many favors in return. But how many are too many? The law doesn’t say. It’s a matter of degree. But matters of degree should not be the basis for criminal prosecutions …. No one should be charged with a crime unless he has willfully crossed a bright line and plainly violated a serious criminal statute. To bring down a duly elected prime minister on the basis of an expansive and unprecedented application of a broad and expandable criminal statute endangers democracy.”

It does not help Mandelblit’s case that Milchan and the others have befriended and asked favors of many Israeli politicians over the years. In an interview in 2013, Milchan proudly counted among his friends former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon, and Shimon Peres, and senior Israeli politicians Tzipi Livni, Avigdor Lieberman, and Silvan Shalom, as well as Netanyahu’s rival Yair Lapid (who would become prime minister in a rotation agreement, were his Blue and White party to win the coming elections), as well as, of course, Netanyahu. The main favor Milchan requested—an extension of an existing tax break for new immigrants and returning Israelis—is one that Milchan discussed with Lapid and which Lapid initially supported. No charges have been or will be filed against Lapid or Milchan.

Cases 2000 and 4000 are even more troubling, as both depend on the idea that positive media coverage of public officials is a currency, like coin, that can turn into bribery when in exchange for policies or decisions. In both cases, Netanyahu is charged with crimes for seeking more favorable coverage from traditionally hostile media outlets in exchange for lawful regulatory action.

Case 2000 involves discussions between Netanyahu and Noni Mozes, the publisher of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. Mozes, who makes no secret of the heavy hand he uses in his newspaper and publishing empire to support favored causes and politicians, sought a law that would cripple a rival newspaper—Sheldon Adelson’s Yisrael Hayom—and he was willing to reduce his traditional hostility to Netanyahu if the prime minister would help. Netanyahu agreed to explore the possibility, though Mozes ultimately had to work without the prime minister. Mozes’ proposed law, which would have outlawed Yisrael Hayom, was opposed by Netanyahu, but supported by f43 members of Knesset. Mandelblit seeks to charge Mozes with bribery and Netanyahu with breach of trust. No charges have been or will be filed against the 43 members of Knesset who actually gave Mozes what he asked for… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]                                                                        

NETANYAHU’S LEGAL WAR WILL WAIT:

IT’S HIS POLITICAL LIFE HE’S FIGHTING FOR NOW​​​​

David Horowitz

Times of Israel, Feb. 28, 2019

For the first time in the history of Israel, a serving prime minister was informed by the state legal hierarchy on Thursday that he is to be indicted for criminal offenses. To look at the glass half full, the case indicates that Israel has a robust and independent law enforcement and legal hierarchy, capable of investigating even the prime minister to ensure that all are subject to the law and equal before the law. To look at the glass half empty, the case means that after a former prime minister and a former president went to jail for criminal activities, a serving prime minister will now be put on trial unless he is able, in the course of the hearing process to which he is entitled, to persuade the attorney general to reconsider.

Benjamin Netanyahu insists that he has committed no crime. He claims to be the victim of a political witch hunt led by the left-wing opposition, left-wing media and a biased police force — all relentlessly pressuring Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a man he appointed to the role but now describes as “weak.”

The presumption of innocence is emphatically with him. It will now be legally tested. But Netanyahu essentially argues that Mandelblit, in the very act of announcing the intention to indict, has now already denied him the political presumption of innocence, and in so doing has skewed the elections. The attorney general has had his say, runs Netanyahu’s assertion, but since the hearing process cannot possibly be completed by the time Israel votes on April 9, the prime minister’s side of the argument will not be comparably known.

This is a tendentious claim: For one thing, Netanyahu has taken great pains, including via live TV broadcast, to present central aspects of his defense to the public. For another, it was he who chose to bring elections forward from their scheduled date in November.

But it is not a claim to be casually dismissed. A darker shadow does indeed now hang over Netanyahu. Until Thursday, it was widely reported that he would face charges of bribery and breach of trust in the investigations against him. But now, the reported allegations have become allegations formally advanced, after two years of investigation and evaluation, by the guardians of Israeli law enforcement. Coming so soon before the public goes to the polls to elect its next government, the official announcement patently impacts the elections. Whether it unfairly skews them is quite another matter. A counter argument can be advanced that not making the announcement, that not informing the public of allegations sufficiently well-founded as to merit an indictment, would have been a far graver abuse of democracy.  

Netanyahu now finds himself with a legal mountain to climb. Initially, the prime minister must seek to marshal a defense so credible as to convince Mandelblit — who has overseen the entire investigation andhas elected to move toward charges with every awareness of the inherent shattering political consequence — that he is wrong. That he has misunderstood. That there is no case to answer.

Suspects have achieved turnarounds in the hearing process. But it seems wildly improbable in this case, given Mandelblit’s central familiarity with the evidence, and given the concern and caution with which he must have weighed that evidence in deciding to proceed… [To read thefull article, click the following LINK – Ed.]                                          

DUELING NARRATIVES IN ISRAEL’S ELECTION

David Makovsky

The Washington Institute, Feb. 22, 2019                                                  

On February 21, Israel’s two main centrist parties—Benny Gantz’s“Resilience” faction and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party—announced a merger, intensifying the sense that the country’s famously fractious multiparty elections will be a two-horse race this time around, with other parties relegated to the edges. Called “Blue and White” in patriotic reference to Israel’s flag, the new joint party brings together three former military chiefs of staff for the first time in Israel’s history: Gantz, Moshe Yaalon, and Gabi Ashkenazi. Moreover, Gantz has been polling neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the question of who is most suitable to lead the country, a challenge the premier has not faced in his last three wins.

These developments may upend Netanyahu’s original plan, which appeared to center on giving Gantz a top portfolio in his cabinet after his Likud Party prevails in the April 9 elections. Now that the center sees itself as a bona fide challenger to Likud, Lapid and Yaalon will likely press Gantz to announce that he will not join Netanyahu’s government if the premier wins again. Adding to the tumult, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit may recommend corruption indictments against Netanyahu as soon as next week.

BLUE AND WHITE NARRATIVE: NETANYAHU IS A DIVIDER

Gantz and his new allies will likely try to make the election a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership. Their main critique is that he is pitting Israelis against each other to extract maximal electoral advantage, prioritizing his base and personal political survival above the country’s unity. They seem to hope public enthusiasm about their merger will create a sense of momentum that will only grow if Mandelblit announces he is starting the indictment process for any of the various corruption accusations against Netanyahu.

Since this narrative would largely absolve Blue and White from focusing its platform on Palestinian peace issues, the party may be hoping to attract at least some right-leaning candidates to its suggested Knesset list (in Israel’s parliamentary system, votes are cast for parties, not individuals). This potential combination of a hybrid candidate list, party leaders with major security credentials, and a thematic focus on unity could woo a key segment of Israeli voters: the “soft right.” According to the Israel Democracy Institute, 63% of the country’s Jewish majority now self-identify as being somewhere on the right side of the political spectrum, so there are many votes to be found there.

LIKUD NARRATIVE: CHANGE IS TOO RISKY

Netanyahu no doubt understands the appeal of this emerging Blue and White strategy. His past success lay in his uncanny ability to frame every election as a mandate on threats to Israel’s national security, with himself cast as the country’s top guardian. Yet Blue and White’s combination of three former military chiefs will likely neutralize that tactic, which could help the new party’s “divider” narrative come to the fore instead. Moreover, a preliminary indictment announcement would presumably lead to a chorus of pundits questioning whether Likud’s previously peerless political asset has suddenly become a liability.

As of now, polls conducted immediately after Blue and White’s merger show Likud running behind in the race for the first time (36 seats to 30 in the 120-seat Knesset, according to Yediot Aharonot). Yet Netanyahu has come from behind before and knows that this dynamic could actually work to his advantage. In general, right-leaning Israeli voters tend to be confident that he will wind up the overall winner in elections, convincing many that they have the luxury of using their votes to get other parties past the parliamentary threshold… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

On Topic Links

The Netanyahu Investigations:  What Next After the Attorney General’s Announcement?:  BICOM Briefing, Feb. 2019Israel’s Attorney General (AG) Avichai Mandelblit will soon announce his decision whether or not to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – pending a hearing – in three separate corruption cases. Netanyahu has said that he will not resign, and he is not legally required to do so. But with elections on 9 April, the AG’s decision has huge political significance.

The Netanyahu Indictments: Unfair and Inevitable:  Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Feb. 28, 2019 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foes are cheering.

Will Netanyahu Be Able To Form A Coalition?:  Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2019 –The Likud suffered a blow in the polls and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t be able to form a coalition after the elections, according to a Kan news poll published on Friday.

Dershowitz Publishes Open Letter Defending Netanyahu in Corruption Cases:  The Jewish Voice, Feb. 28, 2019 — Famous constitutional attorney and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz came to the defense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an open letter addressed to Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandleblit, which was published in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday.