Benjamin Netanyahu called for a face to face meeting with all the state witnesses in the corruption investigations against him. Addressing the nation on live television, Netanyahu said that he asked twice to meet with the witnesses but was denied. As such, he said, he is asking again in a public forum.
Netanyahu faces corruption charges in three cases: Case 1000, in which he and his family are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from wealthy donors; Case 2000, which concerns talks between him and Yedioth Ahronoth owner and publisher Arnon Mozes allegedly discussing favorable coverage for Netanyahu in return for the prime minister pushing legislation to weaken Yedioth's rival, Israel Hayom; and Case 4000, which concerns a suspected quid pro quo relationship between Netanyahu and former Bezeq majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch in which his Walla! news website allegedly provided Netanyahu and his family with positive coverage in return for regulatory benefits for Bezeq.
Netanyahu said that he wanted to meet with the state witnesses so that he could “look them in the eye.” He also called for the face-to-face encounters to be broadcast on live television so that the public could see his innocence firsthand.
“A prime minister also has the right to fair defense,” a grim-faced Netanyahu said from behind the podium.
“What are they scared of?” he said. “What are they hiding? I am not scared. I have nothing to hide.”
Senior officials in the judicial system expressed their disagreement with Netanyahu’s claim that he had been the victim of biased treatment.
The prime minister “wishes to create the impression that procedures against him are unfair, while in fact he is questioned with a decency no other suspect receives,” they said.
“There is no legal obligation to hold a confrontation between him and key witnesses. Netanyahu chooses to create a public hearing for himself, instead of the hearing he will have to face in case he is indicted,” they said.
The State Prosecutor’s Office said that, “the investigations against the prime minister have been conducted professionally and thoroughly, with the aid of the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office and under the supervision of the state prosecutor and the attorney general.”
It added: “It isn’t proper for law enforcement bodies to address details about investigations and testimonies on the media, certainly not at this stage. The attorney general is examining the findings of the investigation, and the team at the State Prosecutor’s Office is working in a professional and organized manner that isn’t, and shouldn’t, be revealed to the press.”
The prime minister’s staff announced shortly before 5pm that he would be making a “dramatic statement” to the media at 8pm. The statement was timed to coincide with the start of the evening news programs in Israel.
The subject of the statement was kept secret, but Netanyahu’s choice of the residence to make the statement, rather than his office, led to speculation that it would pertain to a personal issue and would not be connected to matters of state. Netanyahu has previously delivered a statement about the criminal investigations from the residence.