PM slams false 'state's witness industry'
Netanyahu uploads video on Facebook accusing police of blackmailing suspects in graft probes by intimidating them into incriminating him; 'They says we'll take everything from you and your family. The only way out is to lie and slander Netanyahu'; law enforcement officials hit back, saying PM 'has shifted to plan B by attacking AG who approves agreements.'
The latest verbal assault on the investigative teams comes just days after the prime minister’s former media advisor, Nir Hefetz, signed a state's witness agreement, joining two other former close Netanyahu associates who have turned state's witnesses recently—Ari Harow and Shlomo Filber.
“I read about a man who was taken for investigation, on whom they exerted masses of pressure and told him, ‘Lie, be a state’s witness’ and he refuses. It is difficult to believe that in the State of Israel, in our 2018 democracy, such things occur,” Netanyahu said in a video uploaded on his Facebook page as he was flying from Washington to New York.
“So I want to say a few words about the industry of state’s witnesses. They take people who claim that they carried out some offence, place them under arrest, terrify them and say to them: ‘Your life is over. Your family’s lives are over. We’re taking practically everything from you, including your freedom. Do you want to be free of this? There is one way out—slander Netanyahu. It doesn’t matter if you tell hallucinatory lies. The main thing is that you slander Netanyahu,” the prime minister’s post continued.
“When there is something real, you don’t need a single state’s witness, and when there isn’t anything, even one thousands state’s witnesses won’t help. This obsessive hunt for one state’s witness and then another and another is the best proof that there is nothing,” he added, sticking to the mantra that has escorted him throughout his public defense since the investigations erupted.
“So they will continue doing their thing and I will continue doing my thing, making history here for the State of Israel. The coming days will tell how important this visit is for Israel’s security,” he went on as he continues his five-day visit to the US.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank so many of you who continue to support me, my wife and my family. It is heartwarming for us especially in these days. Thank you all very much.”
As part of Hefetz’s agreement, he is expected to incriminate Netanyahu both in the illicit gifts affair (Case 1000) and in the Bezeq affair (Case 4000). He will also testify in Case 1270, an attempt to bribe District Court President judge Hila Gerstl with appointment to attorney general in return for tossing out a case against the prime minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s remarks gave rise to an volley of accusations, with law enforcement officials hitting back shortly after the post and scolding him for attacking the attorney general.
“Netanyahu has shifted to plan B and is now taking aim at the attorney general,” said the officials, who sought to remind the prime minister that it is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who approves the state’s witnesses.
“State’s witnesses are a crucial force in investigations of this kind and they cannot be ignored, and yet still the person who approves every witness and the conditions of their signature are the state prosecutor and the attorney general.”
Filber and Hefetz are believed to be able to piece together the fragmented pieces of evidence and tie the benefits allegedly received by another Case 4000 central suspect Shaul Elovitch—the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications company—with the favorable news coverage believed to have been given to Netanyahu and his family.
“Even without state’s witnesses, this case is strong and we could have gone with an indictment. Two state’s witnesses stated exactly what they could give, and after the material was examined by the police, the state prosecutor and the attorney general the agreement was approved,” the officials continued.
“Netanyahu is conducting an organized campaign. He isn’t waging a battle against the existing state’s witnesses. He is conducting a battle against the next state’s witnesses.
Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay also lashed out at Netanyahu, accusing him of “going after the attorney general’s head” after going after Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh.
“There is no ‘state’s witnesses industry’ in Israel. There is an industry of government corruption and at the head of it is none other than Netanyahu itself,” Gabbay said. “The people of Israel deserve leadership that strengthens Israel and doesn’t attack its authorities.”