New developments in former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial have his supporters believing that one of the cases against him will eventually collapse.
In a major blow to prosecutors on Tuesday, the court rejected the prosecution’s request to amend the narrative against the former premier and current head of the Israeli opposition.
Case 4000 is considered the most serious out of the three cases for which Netanyahu is currently standing trial. He is accused of speeding up regulatory changes to benefit to Shaul Elovitch, then-owner of telecommunications giant Bezeq, in exchange for favorable coverage by Walla – a news site outlet owned by Bezeq.
Prosecutors charged that Netanyahu had instructed his advisor Shlomo Filber, who also served as director-general of the Communications Ministry, to advance the regulatory changes on behalf of Bezeq. The former Netanyahu confidant has become a state witness in the case.
On May 15, the prosecution filed a request to amend a section in the indictment which relates to a meeting between Netanyahu and Filber. In that meeting, the former premier allegedly instructed his advisor regarding the regulatory changes. The original draft said the meeting had taken place “a very short time after Filber’s confirmation,” whereas the proposed draft read “at an unknown time.”
The prosecution’s reversal came after the defense team proved – thanks to GPS cellphone location data, as well as data from the Prime Minister’s Office security clearance records – that the meeting between the two could not have taken place at the time the prosecution said it did. Filber was at a family celebration and a business meeting that day, and did not visit the prime minster’s office during that week in June 2015.
The Jerusalem District Court decided that the section in the indictment could not be changed, noting that “the amendment constitutes a significant harm to the rights and abilities of the accused to carry out their defense.” The judge added that prosecutors cannot “change the rules of the game.”
Moreover, the transcript containing the most critical part of Filber’s testimony – in which he mentioned that meeting with Netanyahu – has disappeared. The prosecution and the Israeli Police claimed that there was a “power outage” during that exact part of his testimony and that computers were shut off as a result.
Filber, however, testified in court that he does not remember anything similar to a blackout, nor does he recall sitting in the dark at any point.
Israeli right-wing leaning news anchor and former member of Knesset, Yinon Magal, started his broadcast on Wednesday by mocking the prosecutors. “We have gathered here today for a vigil to commemorate case 4000,” he announced.
Magal declared the “chances that Netanyahu will be convicted in the bribery charge do not exist, because his lawyers have proven that there could have not been an ‘instruction meeting’ – the one upon which case 4000 was built.”
Netanyahu – who also faces charges in two other cases – is now the head of the Israeli opposition, which is currently trying to take advantage of the coalition crisis. The crisis was sparked after the chairwoman of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition, Idit Silman, announced her resignation and said she would no longer vote with the coalition. Other lawmakers have also threatened to quit, including Nir Orbach and Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi both of whom have so far backtracked on those threats.
Bennett’s coalition no longer has a majority and at 60-60 in a parliament of 120 seats, they cannot afford to lose another member.
Sensing this political opportunity, the opposition plans to further undermine the government and lead a “determined and unified fight” to topple it and replace the government with an alternative one led by Netanyahu.
Earlier this week, the opposition vowed not to support any upcoming coalition legislation, even if the members ideologically support it.
“We won’t help them; they need to go,” Netanyahu said, referring to the coalition which he called a sinking ship, according to The Times of Israel. “We won’t fall into the trap that each time we’ll save them.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.