Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejoiced on Monday when the prosecution in his corruption trial asked the court for permission to amend its charge against him when a key witness backtracked on his earlier testimony against him.
“In your face,” Netanyahu told reporters.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 16, 2022
He faces three charges, which were described by critics from the start as false, and as an apparent effort by Netanyahu’s political enemies in the Israeli legal fraternity to remove him from power.
In the so-called 4000 case, considered the most serious of the three, “Netanyahu is accused of providing lucrative benefits to Shaul Elovitch, then owner of the [communications firm] Bezeq and the news website Walla, in exchange for favorable coverage,” notes the Times of Israel.
Shlomo Filber, a former aide to Netanyahu turned state witness, told investigators in 2017 that Netanyahu made a hand gesture suggesting “drop the whole thing.” He then changed his story to implicate Netanyahu.
But last week, Filber went back to his original story and told the court that he may have misinterpreted the non-verbal cue. The prosecution then asked the court to change a key date in the indictment to explain Filber’s apparent inconsistency.
Columnist Caroline Glick noted at the time that the accusation was ludicrous, as the deal to approve a merger involving Bezeq was “approved by all relevant legal and regulatory authorities” and that competitors received similar tax breaks. Bezeq actually lost money on the deal. Furthermore, if Netanyahu expected better coverage of Walla, he never received it: “About 75 percent of the articles about him were negative,” as was in much of the rest of the left-wing Israeli media.
The accusation has since been clouded by revelations that state investigators illegally hacked into Netanyahu’s and his associates’ phones in an effort to spy on him and use harmful personal information to draw witnesses against him.
Netanyahu refused to accept any plea deal and insisted on proving his innocence. The prosecution stumbled as the post-Netanyahu government, a ragtag coalition led by former aide Naftali Bennett, approached internal collapse.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor at Breitbart News and host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday nights from 7pm to 10pm ET (4pm to 7pm PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 US Presidential Election. Your recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.