Justice Ministry: AG, state attorney 'work in full coordination' with police
After reports of criticism from Justice Ministry of the police recommendation to indict PM Netanyahu for bribery, ministry issues unusual statement saying police worked in accordance with AG's instructions, release of recommendations received approval by both Mandelblit and Nitzan.
The Justice Ministry issued an unusual official statement on Thursday, stressing the Attorney General and State Attorney's Office "are working in full coordination and excellent cooperation with the Israel Police" amid criticism of the police's conduct during investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Tuesday, the police announced they have collected sufficient evidence to indict the prime minister for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the Israel Police's announcement about the completion of the investigation in cases 1000 and 2000 was done in accordance with the attorney general's instruction 4.1003, which deals with 'Guidelines to law enforcement authorities on releasing information on investigations.' The announcement was done with the advance approval of the attorney general and the state attorney, as it required and customary," the Justice Ministry statement said.
"The legal position concerning these cases will be formulated only after a thorough examination by prosecution officials of the evidence gathered in the investigation," the ministry further noted.
Channel 2 journalist Guy Peleg reported on Wednesday that Justice Ministry officials had criticized the police's recommendations to indict Netanyahu, claiming the police put Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in an impossible situation. "Any withdrawal from the recommendations, even the smallest one, would appear like a collapse."
Justice Ministry and the State Attorney's Office officials also reportedly said that "not everything being claimed in the recommendations has evidence to back it up... the case is only 95 percent baked and not ready to be transferred (to the prosecution) at this time."
Also on Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Meni Yitzhaki, who led the investigation, defended the investigations and intelligence division Lahav 433, saying its investigators were "professionals."
Yitzhaki, who was the head of Lahav 433, refused to make any further comments on the matter. Despite recently retiring from the police, he stayed on to complete the investigations.
Meanwhile, Channel 10 journalist Baruch Kra reported that state witness Ari Harow, Netanyahu's former chief of staff, told police investigators that the prime minister held a meeting with two ministers close to him—Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin—to discuss how to implement some of the things he had agreed upon with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon Mozes.
When questioned about it, the two ministers reportedly insisted they do not remember the meeting. Netanyahu, however, confirmed the meeting in his own questioning, but claimed they discussed how to deal with the possibility the so-called Israel Hayom bill is advanced.
Poll: More Israelis believe police than Netanyahu
Almost half of Israel’s electorate believe the police over the prime minister, a poll showed. The poll, aired on the commercial television channel Reshet, said 49 percent of respondents sided with the police’s version that Netanyahu had acted improperly. Twenty-five percent said they believed Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing. The remainder, 26 percent, said they did not know whom to believe.
But the poll supported Netanyahu more when people were asked whether Netanyahu should remain in office or temporarily step aside. Forty-nine percent said he should stay put, 43 percent that he should suspend himself.
Many of the 495 respondents representing a cross-section of Israel’s Hebrew-speaking voters—44 percent—said they did not think the investigation was a deliberate attempt to topple Netanyahu. Thirty-eight percent thought it was.
Voters for Netanyahu’s Likud party tended to favor of the prime minister - 50 percent said they believed his denial of wrongdoing. Sixty percent said the investigation was a deliberate attempt to topple him and almost three quarters, 73 percent, said he should stay in his position.
Separate polls on Israel’s two other main channels also showed that a majority of respondents preferred the police’s version of events but also said that if elections were held today, Likud would remain as the largest party in the Knesset
Reuters contributed to this report.
Arnon Mozes is the publisher and owner of Yedioth Ahronoth Group, which includes Ynet and Ynetnews.