1/8/19 Netanyahu Gives Prime Time Address Claiming His Crimes are NOt Crimes
The last few days have felt like the quiet before the storm. After several days of intensive activity after the election campaign was called, we are now in a period of waiting. The parties that hold primaries (i.e., Labor, Likud, and Meretz) are busy trying to arrange them, while everyone else is waiting to see what Benny Gantz is going to do.
However, late yesterday afternoon an announcement was made by the Likud that Prime Minister Netanyahu would make a dramatic announcement at 8 PM last night(timed to coincide with the top of the news broadcasts). For three hours, news of this announcement dominated the media in Israel. Speculation regarding what the prime minister could be speaking about was rampant. For a few minutes, some hypothesized that perhaps he was going to resign. Since the statement was made from his home, it was clear Netanyahu was not going to address any issues of defense or foreign affairs. Nevertheless, the speculation ran wild.
So, instead of devoting the news to the death of former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, or discussing the senseless tragedy of a soldier who drowned during a training exercise, or the fact that the Minister of Justice visited the mother of one of those accused of terrorism against Arabs, everyone was pre-occupied discussing what significant scoop Netanyahu might possibly disclose. One thing all the commentators agreed on, it had to be compelling, given that it was stated the announcement would be a dramatic one.
To add a little levity to the awkward situation, I tweeted out that Netanyahu was going to announce he had found evidence on Israel’s oldest cold case — i.e. who killed Hayim Arlozoroff. As the hour of eight neared, it was leaked that Netanyahu’s announcement would relate to the allegations of his malfeasance, regarding which the series of investigations are all reaching their conclusions.
At 8:05 PM Netanyahu began speaking. His dramatic announcement was that he had requested to confront the witnesses offering testimony against him during the investigation, but he was denied that opportunity. Netanyahu demanded that he immediately have the chance to confront the state’s witnesses (three of his most trusted aids) publicly. Of course, it should be noted that there is no legal requirement to allow a plaintiff to confront witness until a trial. Netanyahu also claimed that the police had not called a witness who could have cleared him of the charges and demanded that witness be called.
By this time, Channel 10 (which I watch) cut away from the speech, saying they had wasted enough air time broadcasting an attack by Netanyahu on the legal system. After Channel 10 cutaway, Netanyahu went on to assert that the allegations against him are the result of pressure from the left-wing forcing the attorney general and police to move to indict him — and that if he agreed to return to 1967 borders, they would not be charging him.
Netanyahu's final point and probably most important is a claim that there cannot be bribery without cash changing hands. For hours after the speech, Netanyahu issued a series of Instagram posts saying that saying there is bribery without money is like saying you can have cornflakes without milk or there could be no Dimona without a textile plant (showing a picture of a nuclear reactor). Netanyahu’s problem is that Israeli criminal code is very specific - you do not have to receive money just something that is worth money. Netanyahu is saying that he is guilty of what he is accused of, but is claiming it’s not a crime.
In summary, it was a sad performance. Netanyahu’s core supporters will no doubt go out with talking points from tonight’s theatrics, but the rest of Israel is shaking their heads tonight. Benny Gantz made his first political statement this evening, saying, “It is time for Israel to have a Prime Minister that is worried about the country, and not himself.” I have to believe that after tonight that feeling is a little more widespread in Israel than before.