(February 27, 2019 / JNS) A decision to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges in Case 2000 would “endanger democracy and freedom of the press,” Harvard University Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz wrote in an open letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday.
Dershowitz, one of the most prominent Jewish lawyers in the United States and worldwide, posted the letter on his Twitter page.
“Such charges would open up a Pandora’s box out of which would flow a parade of horribles: Every government official—legislators, judges, prosecutors, police offices, administrators—who sought positive coverage in the media, and then did anything that helped the media, would have to be investigated,” he wrote.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu allegedly supported a law that would curtail Israel Hayom to gain fairer coverage from its competitor Yediot Achronot in a deal struck with its publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes. Netanyahu ultimately voted against the law, leaving prosecutors to deal with possible motives but no real evidence.
“In the Yediot matter, more than 40 Knesset and cabinet members voted in favor of the newspaper, while [Netanyahu] effectively killed the bill and went to elections. Many of the Knesset members then received positive coverage in Yediot Achronot. Yet they were not investigated. Only the prime minister, who killed the bill, is being prosecuted. This disparity illustrates the enormous discretion prosecutors have in selectively prosecuting alleged violators of this open-ended prosecutorial tool.
“There is no limiting principle to this open-ended intrusion of the criminal law into the delicate, and legally protected, relationship between government officials and the media.”
The letter continued: “Any such charge would give law enforcement far too much power to dictate to the media and to officials they cover how they relate to each other. In a democracy, criticism of the relationship between media and government should be left to voters, not prosecutors.
“I urge you, Mr. Attorney General, to consider the dangerous implications for democracy and freedom of the press if you go forward with these charges against the prime minister.”