Most other national leaders would have given up long ago. They would have accepted the will of the people amid multiple corruption investigations and a trial which could end in a prison term. But that’s not Bibi. This guy has an instinct for survival and sense of grandiose self-importance that is unprecedented. He faces four separate corruption charges. His trial is ongoing. The state witnesses have presented a damning set of testimonies against him. If convicted he could either go to prison or be banned from politics for life (or both).
But Bibi will not go down without a fight. And by “fight” I don’t mean the petty squabbles of everyday politics. I mean a monumental battle comparable to the ones between ferocious dinosaurs is the pre-historic era. A fight to the death in which one party ends up mauled and mutilated beyond recognition. This is the take-no-prisoner style of the former Israeli leader. Thanks for all the support I’ve received from various subs and Redditors on my return to the site.
Regarding everything in this case, there are conspiracies, leaks, suspect claims and self-interested revelations. Even the most innocent, innocuous news has an angle benefiting one side or the other. So is the case of a series of breaking stories by Calcalist which purport to expose abuse by the police of its powers to monitor criminal behavior. The series began by focusing on the SIGINT unit of the national police and its use of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of ordinary Israelis guilty of no crimes. On its face, this was a terrific journalistic coup. Though Pegasus had been widely used by repressive regimes and intelligence agencies to target human rights activists, journalists and attorneys, NSO swore it was not used against Israelis. Not surprisingly, Calcalist proved this was a lie.
But the latest bombshell by Calcalist escalated the matter even further: the police not only used Pegasus against average citizens, they targeted senior government officials and witnesses in the Netanyahu corruption trial. That became a story that led all the TV and print news outlets. It was a scandal that shocked the nation. And it was meant to. Not only by Calcalist for journalistic reasons, but by the source who leaked the information in the first place.
The journalist reporting the series has carefully avoided even the remotest hint of his source. Unfortunately, this is common in Israeli journalism. There is almost no sourcing standard. So I (and other independent journalists) have begun to speculate (Hebrew) on who the source might be. 7th Eye suggested the source may be disgruntled technicians in the SIGINT shunted aside and fired after Unit 8200 veterans took it over. Another possibility would be, as reported by Kan TV news in 2019, the security consultant/s and ex-intelligence agents hired by individuals close to Bibi to spy on the police themselves conducting the investigation against him.
There are faint stirrings of a building consensus that the drip-drip Chinese water torture of stories exposing police malfeasance benefits one political faction and figure: Netanyahu. His nemesis from the beginning has been the police and state prosecution. He has leveled every charge and slung every slime possible against them in an effort to destroy their credibility. The entire effort was Trump-like in its sweeping, self-aggrandizing scope.
Bibi’s resentment against the police and prosecution must be even more intense considering that he appointed a former chief of staff, Mandelblit, as attorney general; and appointed Roni AlSheikh as national police commander. He expected loyalty (as Trump infamously demanded from the FBI’s James Comey) but instead got betrayal (from his perspective).
Recently, the prosecution proposed a plea deal offering the accused ex-leader no jail time and a charge of “moral turpitude” which would prohibit him from political office for seven years. There were reports that the offer interested Netanyahu. But he has his own Lady Macbeth in his wife, Sara; and a bellicose Bibi Jr. in Yair Netanyahu, who lobbied strenuously for his to fight to the bitter end. We have heard no more about plea bargains.
After the end of this plea deal saga, the Calcalist stories broke. A coincidence? Doubtful. How do they impact the corruption trial? The police are the source of all the evidence against Netanyahu. If he can divert attention from the witnesses against him and the trial itself, and turn the focus back on the police and their misconduct, he benefits himself in two ways. One, he lessens the public interest in the actual trial; two, he destroys the credibility of the police and possibly terminally sabotages the entire prosecution. Already, Netanyahu’s lawyers are demanding the suspension of the current witness’ testimony. The next step will likely be a call for a mistrial. If enough dirt is thrown on the police, then the judge may feel compelled to agree. And even if s/he refuses to grant a mistrial, the entire process may be fatally tainted and result in acquittal of the accused.
NSO is collateral damage in this case. Netanyahu has gone from touting the company and being its middleman in orchestrating deals around the globe on its behalf, as he traveled to various national capitals, to exploiting its ill fortune for his own political benefit. That’s characteristic of Bibi: you can turn from a friend to an enemy; a trusted confidant to a patsy at the drop of the hat.
The Calcalist expose may be a case of a media outlet knowingly or unknowingly being cynically exploited the save the hide of a corrupt, megalomaniacal leader bent on taking the entire judicial and legal system down with him like the Titanic. If so, this is a deeply sad, tragic example of the corruption of not only the systems I just mentioned, but the entire state itself. The rich and powerful manipulate this system for their own advantage. They have endless strategems to game it to maintain their own power. The average citizen sits back in utter disgust, powerless to change anything seeing behavior like this as rotten to the core.
David Allon says
Interesting post! First, important to note that in Israel there is no “fruit of the poisoned tree” restriction. Even illegally obtained evidence can be used.
This whole leak is backfiring badly on Netanyahu. If at first everybody was accusing the police of undemocratic behavior, now people suddenly remember who was in charge when all this happened. Demand is increasing to create a commission of inquiry to look into not only Netanyahu’s trial but all use of these tools by the police and others. Suddenly Bibi’s cohorts are against going into these murky waters.
People are also remembering about how the “Iranians” broke into Gant’s phone. Who were these “Iranians”? Bibi’s sidekicks perhaps?
People also note that Bibi does not have a smartphone. It was always a riddle why he didn’t have one, and now people thing they know the reason.
The report as published seems to be inaccurate. The next witness to be heard in Bibi’s trial is Filber, and his telephone was tapped before he was interrogated for the Bibi investigation. That tapping was authorized by a judge as required. Right now it loks like Filber’s testimony will go ahead. Right now it looks like the trial will go ahead.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks, that’s great information and follow up to my Post. I hope yr optimism turns out to be right and my pessimism (cynicism) turns out wrong.
Off topic and two months late, but in case anyone missed this round up of the sheer creepiness of our old chum Alan Dershowitz:
Nate Depp says
Spying on Bibi’s son, Yair, AND spying on Bibi’s political foes?
Sounds to me like former Police Commander Roni Alsheikh went rogue.
Richard Silverstein says
@Nate: You got two things wrong. The police spied on Avner, not Yair. And the vast majority, if not all the targets were either future or potential witnesses in the trial or officials viewed as enemies of the police. If they wanted to target Bibi’s allies they would have spied on Opposition figures like Lapid, Bennett or Gantz.
As for “going rogue,” if the police went rogue they had a terrific model to follow: Netanyahu himself, not to mention the Likud and virtually the entire state. Israel is a rogue state.
His name is Avner
Richard Silverstein says
@ Shai: Right, I was going from memory and not checking it out before I wrote that. Thanks for the correction.
Would love for you to write about Israel-Dubai airport crisis!
nessim dayan says
if bibi was bad, seems that benett is even ugkier
he has swallowed hook line and sinker thse bs report of the police investigating itself
he has stop any commission from being formed
the question to be raised is what does the police have on hin rhat it tooj\k 72 hours for the whole story to go boom