(December 27, 2018 / JNS) When it comes to the investigations involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the well-briefed media, which serves as a mouthpiece for the State Attorney’s Office and the Israel Police—changes its story faster than state’s witnesses change their versions of the story.
One day, Case 2000 (involving alleged illicit contact between the prime minister and the publisher of the Yediot Achronot newspaper) is the “most solid of them all,” and the next, Case 4000 (which alleges the Netanyahu, as communications minister, offered Bezeq telecom benefits in exchange for favorable coverage on the Bezeq-owned news site Walla) is “iron-clad,” while it’s hard to see a “solid basis” for Case 2000. New versions replace old ones and an onlooker is left with the impression that the only stable thing in these affairs is the investigators’ motivation to bring down Netanyahu and the media’s faithfulness in cheering them on.
It’s understandable. Case 4000, which is being presented to the public as a “business” affair that contains “numbers” and “incontrovertible facts,” is full of problems and holes. As Israel Hayom has already reported, the media market in Israel is complicated and every decision that benefits one entity is detrimental to another. Just like the green light for a merger between Bezeq telecom and the Yes satellite broadcaster was seen as Netanyahu supposedly bribing Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, previous communications ministers who have been “harsh” with Bezeq effectively helped its competitors, including the Hot telecom corporation, which for some reason was given assistance when market reforms were instituted.
Not only that, senior officials in the Communications Ministry have gotten in up to their necks in every possible type of conflict of interest. The former ministry director general used to work for Partner telecom and now consults for Cellcom; a former deputy CFO of the ministry held a senior position at another telecom firm before being appointed; and there are plenty of others—some of whom sat on committees that had untold influence on the communications market and swayed the balance for or against certain companies.
What’s more, as Globes reporter Eli Zippori has argued for the past several weeks, the claims made about numbers and deals aren’t bulletproof. For example, despite the claim that senior communications ministry officials objected to the Bezeq-Yes merger until Netanyahu stepped in, Zippori shows that there are no official documents that back up that story. Not only that, since Netanyahu handed over the communications portfolio, both Bezeq and Yes have racked up massive losses, both in terms of revenue and numbers of subscribers. So it’s hard to point to “benefits” that Netanyahu gave Bezeq.
Zippori also revealed that Dr. Assaf Eilat, a key figure in approving the Bezeq-Yes merger in the Antitrust Authority, has never been summoned to testify, and even if he were, his testimony wouldn’t prove that Netanyahu had applied pressure.
But Zippori’s discoveries—like the voices in the State Attorney’s Office that are skeptical about the cases—will never be heard. The public is subject to endless noise about remarks by “officials,” articles by “sources close to the investigation,” selective leaking, and manipulation of facts and figures. It’s no wonder that journalists like Zippori are almost entirely excluded from the public discourse and that others who report on the affairs take care not to challenge him.
The goal is clear. There is no effort being made to get at the truth—merely an attempt to force the attorney general, who is under inhumane pressure anyway, to indict Netanyahu at any price. It’s no coincidence that the program Hamakor broadcast an investigative report—a report that contained mostly recycled material—the same week that the police published their recommendations that Netanyahu be indicted in Case 4,000.
The hand that guides them is the hand that controls the timing. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit knows very well that that hand can also reward or punish.
Akiva Bigman writes for Israel Hayom.