אסתר חיות איננה יכולה להישאר בתפקיד נשיאת בית המשפט העליון, לאחר שהעלימה מרשויות החוק חשד לפשע חמור – ניסיון של מקורבי ראש הממשלה נתניהו לשחד שופטת בכירה. על אסתר חיות לפרוש מתפקידה לאלתר
Poor Bibi. Just when he thought he knew the full scope of charges against him with Cases 1000-4000, now a new one breaks like a monstrous Hawaiian wave over his head. I titled it Case 5000. But the Israeli police, spoiling the nice evenness of the previous cases (1000 through 4000) decided to call the new probe, Case 1270.
Like many of the others, this one involves Sara Netanyahu, who I’ve started calling by any of a number of names of famous literary harridans: Lady Macbeth, Madame Dafarge, and the one popular in Israeli media, Marie Antoinette.
Netanyahu’s spouse faces prosecution on charges that she misused state funds for personal purposes in renovating and maintaining her private villa in Caesarea. She is also accused of conniving to receive $80,000 in state funds for the purchase of “prepared foods” (i.e. take-out) to which she was not entitled. She engaged in this conspiracy with her chief of staff who prepared fraudulent billing in order to evade the regulations. The attorney general has already recommended that she be indicted, which is one step short of formal prosecution.
To show the pettiness of this dynastic family (not sure whether it’s a mafia or a political family), as Netanyahu faced the prospect of a trial on these charges, a PM crony, Nir Heifetz, approached Judge Hila Gerstel in 2015. He proposed that in exchange for dropping the charges, she would be named attorney general.
Again, to show just how tawdry Netanyahu is, he was once accused of making the precisely the same offer when he faced different charges over a decade ago. That case was not prosecuted though the police recommended indicting him at the time.
Gerstel, to her credit, approached a fellow judge, Esther Hayut, to report the incident. But to her shame, the police report that neither Gerstel nor the other judge ever came to them to report the incident. Last week, the police approached them for statements. Hayut is now chief justice of the Supreme Court. Someone please tell me how you rise to such an august position having concealed evidence of a potentially serious crime? And keep your job.
In Israel and other corrupt states, it’s not hard to imagine how. But Israel touts itself a democracy upholding the rule of law. This incident further substantiates the rot that is at the heart of key Israeli institutions, whether they be the army, judiciary, or Knesset. We’ll see how much, if any pressure is exerted on the Chief Justice to quit her job.
It does seem like the police could have a criminal case against her. Though if she helps in the case against Bibi, they might arrange a deal for her.
Gerstel, conveniently, is now retired.
Heifetz is also a key player in Case 4000, the Bezeq scandal, in which he served as an intermediary between the company’s then-CEO Shaul Elovitch and the Communications ministry’s director general, Shlomo Filber. In that case, Elovitch fraudulently earned the right to purchase $400-500-million in shares of the YES cable network in return for favorable press coverage of Mrs. Netanyahu. Heifetz seems to play a reverse bag man role for Netanyahu. He distributes the goodies and secures the quid pro quo Netanyahu seeks.
I don’t know why these charges weren’t announced and investigated earlier. It’s somewhat bizarre to permit such an incident to remain secret for three years.
As an aside, I jokingly tweeted that I would be happy to become Case 5000 and publish highly flattering profiles of both Netanyahus if only he would cede total control of Israeli foreign policy to me. That was before the new set of charges were announced. I guess I now become Case 6000!
As for the legal strategy being employed here against Netanyahu (if there is one), I wrote in an earlier post that the police seem to be pursuing a shrewd strategy knowing the absolute power that Netanyahu enjoys in so many aspects of Israeli society. This is not a figure who can be dislodged easily. He enjoys enormous support within his far-right nationalist constituency. He has the ability to rally his troops at critical junctures when he feels under threat.
I suspect they have devised this plan to overwhelm Netanyahu with so many charges, each teased out in the media in a death-by-a-thousand-paper cuts mode, that eventually he himself will topple like a house of cards.
There is a two-fold option here: either the justice system takes both the prime minister and his spouse to trial, they’re convicted (or exonerated), imprisoned, and he resigns somewhere amidst all this. Or he loses the support of his own Party and coalition partners and is forced to resign (what happened to his predecessor, Ehud Olmert). The key goal would seem to be his resignation.
But even if he does resign, he will likely not escape prosecution and prison time if convicted. That’s what happened in Olmert’s case, where he spent a year in prison after he was convicted of accepting bribes.