What would Bibi’s Case 1000 trial look like?

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

Imag­ine that Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has re­signed. Some­one else is run­ning the coun­try for the first time in a decade.

Sure, we had the trial of for­mer prime min­is­ter Ehud Olmert, but he was the king for only three years. Ne­tanyahu has al­ready been prime min­is­ter, com­bin­ing his two stints, for over 12 years, and he will break David Ben-Gu­rion’s record as the long­est-serv­ing pre­mier in Septem­ber – if he’s still in of­fice.

What would his ‘il­le­gal gifts af­fair’ trial look like?

Be­fore go­ing into the de­tails of the trial, the main points as al­ways are facts, le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion, x-fac­tors and wit­nesses.

Ne­tanyahu is much worse off than Olmert re­gard­ing the facts – sim­ply put, he does not dis­pute them. Olmert could say that no one gave or re­ceived money or value of any kind, and the pros­e­cu­tion had to prove their ex­is­tence.

Ne­tanyahu, on the other hand, ad­mits to re­ceiv­ing all of the gifts he is ac­cused of re­ceiv­ing – so he has to give in on tons of po­ten­tial de­fenses be­fore the trial even starts.

But he does have a wealth of le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tions to knock out each fact from be­ing used as proof against him. That is where he will make his stand. To get a con­vic­tion, the pros­e­cu­tion will need to bring enough ev­i­dence to re­fute each in­ter­pre­ta­tion as ab­surd.

The fi­nal piece is the guest star wit­nesses: Bil­lion­aire Arnon Milchan, Milchan’s sec­re­tary, Yair Lapid, for­mer Ne­tanyahu chief of staff Ari Harow, Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire James Packer, Zion­ist Union MK Ei­tan Ca­bel, Sara Ne­tanyahu and of course Ne­tanyahu him­self. This is not a great set of wit­nesses for the pros­e­cu­tion. Many of them are loyal to Ne­tanyahu or at least will have no stomach to un­load on him.

And now the de­tails.

Are we talk­ing about gifts or il­le­gal ben­e­fits – and when does Ne­tanyahu and Milchan’s his­tory start?

Gifts ver­sus il­le­gal ben­e­fits is an im­por­tant fight, as the court will need to de­cide con­cep­tu­ally whether the Milchan-Ne­tanyahu re­la­tion­ship was one of friends, of bribery or of some kind of a mix de­pend­ing on the time pe­riod in ques­tion.

In terms of his­tory, the po­lice rec­om­menda-

tions fo­cused – and the pros­e­cu­tion will fo­cus – on the pe­riod be­tween 2007 and 2016. Dur­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of that time, Ne­tanyahu was prime min­is­ter or was at least knock­ing on the prime min­is­ter’s door. The pros­e­cu­tion will em­pha­size the to­tals – a stag­ger­ing NIS 1 mil­lion of al­legedly il­le­gal ben­e­fits from Milchan and James Packer.

The de­fense will start the his­tory ear­lier. They will say that Ne­tanyahu and Milchan’s friend­ship and gifts go back 20 years, in­clud­ing an ex­tended pe­riod when Ne­tanyahu was nowhere near the throne. They will say that look­ing at the por­tions of the 20-year pe­riod when Ne­tanyahu was not pre­mier proves their friend­ship ar­gu­ment.

What are the real amounts that Ne­tanyahu will be ac­cused of ac­cept­ing as bribes?

The pros­e­cu­tion will em­pha­size the NIS 1m. fig­ure to give the case a grav­i­tas of some­thing beyond a few ex­pen­sive cigars.

Ne­tanyahu’s team will pick apart the NIS 1m. into pieces that only re­late to his wife, Sara, and which they will say he knew noth­ing about.

They will try to toss out gifts that come only af­ter a point in which the pros­e­cu­tion has more ev­i­dence of gifts be­ing in­vol­un­tary,

and will try to dis­con­nect spe­cific gifts from any spe­cific events where the pros­e­cu­tion says Ne­tanyahu acted on Milchan’s be­half. The pros­e­cu­tion will try to con­nect spe­cific gifts to spe­cific events where they say Ne­tanyahu used his power to ben­e­fit Milchan.

Olmert was con­victed of bribery re­gard­ing only a frac­tion of the orig­i­nal charges. Even if Ne­tanyahu is con­victed, the amount will likely be far less than NIS 1m. Fur­ther, the de­fense will ar­gue that the to­tal amount is ir­rel­e­vant as it was spread out over such a long time, and that in real-time terms, the amounts were small.

What are the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Ne­tanyahu–Milchan re­la­tion­ship?

The de­fense will em­pha­size their long-stand­ing friend­ship and that Ne­tanyahu some­times also gave Milchan gifts. They will be pressed about state­ments by Milchan and his sec­re­tary to po­lice that even though part of the gift giv­ing started as friends, at some point it evolved into be­ing in­vol­un­tary.

The pros­e­cu­tion will jump on this ad­mis­sion and say that if the il­le­gal-ben­e­fits giver – Milchan in this case – ad­mits they were friends, but also ad­mits that the gifts be­came in­vol­un­tary, he has ex­tra cred­i­bil­ity in ac­cus­ing Ne­tanyahu and must be be­lieved.

Ne­tanyahu will re­spond that Milchan never said that he was giv­ing the gifts to re­ceive some­thing in re­turn.

The pros­e­cu­tion will counter say­ing Milchan tried to save him­self by just calling the re­la­tion­ship one of in­vol­un­tary gifts. How­ever, since this is the max­i­mum Milchan could ad­mit with­out ex­plic­itly in­crim­i­nat­ing him­self, it makes it clear that the gifts were be­ing given as bribes and not as part of a friend­ship.

Ne­tanyahu will re­spond that even if Milchan changed his in­tent about why he was giv­ing the gifts, af­ter so many years of gift-giv­ing, if Ne­tanyahu is the de­fen­dant and he still be­lieved the gifts were be­ing given in the con­text of friends, it is only his in­tent that mat­ters.

The pros­e­cu­tion will flip this ar­gu­ment about Ne­tanyahu’s mind­set be­ing de­ci­sive and point out that this makes it even clearer that the gifts were bribes. Even if NIS 750,000 was not a lot of money for Milchan, it was a huge amount of money for Ne­tanyahu, who at the end of the day has a lim­ited state salary.

Maybe one of the strong­est ar­gu­ments the pros­e­cu­tion will have will be that the con­sis­tency, reg­u­lar­ity and in­volve­ment of a bureaucracy of sec­re­taries, driv­ers and as­sis­tants in de­liv­er­ing the gifts is ev­i­dence that what was given were il­le­gal ben­e­fits for bribery and not gifts of friend­ship.

How does Packer fit into the case?

The pros­e­cu­tion will use the Packer nar­ra­tive to boost their case that the Milchan-Ne­tanyahu re­la­tion­ship was one of bribery and busi­ness rather than friend­ship. They will say Packer en­tered the pic­ture to help Milchan with the bur­den of keep­ing up with Ne­tanyahu’s ex­pen­sive gifts ap­petite so that the prime min­is­ter would con­tinue to act on his be­half.

The de­fense will ar­gue that the fact that there is no rec­om­men­da­tion to in­dict Packer should toss out the NIS 250,000 re­lated to him and should be proof that what Milchan gave were just gifts and not re­lated to a crime.

How do Sara Ne­tanyahu and Milchan’s sec­re­tary fit into the case?

The pros­e­cu­tion will say that any­thing Sara Ne­tanyahu got from Milchan can be at­trib­uted to Ne­tanyahu and that he knew about all of it. Ne­tanyahu will say he did not know about any of it and that Sara was also con­nected to Milchan as part of long-stand­ing fam­ily con­nec­tions.

But the pros­e­cu­tion will pro­duce Milchan’s sec­re­tary who will say that Ne­tanyahu in­ter­vened on Sara’s be­half – es­sen­tially elim­i­nat­ing the idea that he had no knowl­edge of the gifts she was re­ceiv­ing. The de­fense will re­ply that if there is only one in­stance where Ne­tanyahu in­ter­vened, it is the ex­cep­tion that proves the rule. This will be a tricky tightrope for the de­fense to walk.

What ben­e­fits did Milchan get from Ne­tanyahu – and how does Lapid fit in?

This was al­ways the hardest part of the case for the pros­e­cu­tion. The ev­i­dence that came out on Tues­day was that Ne­tanyahu tried to get a law passed that would get Milchan po­ten­tially mil­lions or hun­dreds of mil­lions of shekels in tax ex­emp­tions as a re­turn­ing Is­raeli cit­i­zen.

The po­lice say, and the pros­e­cu­tion will claim, that Ne­tanyahu even leaned on Lapid, then fi­nance min­is­ter, to push the bill through, but that Lapid or his team blocked it as against state in­ter­ests.

Ne­tanyahu will deny that he and Lapid ever spoke about the is­sue. To the ex­tent he ex­plored the is­sue with any­one, he will ar­gue it was to get greater for­eign in­vest­ment for Is­rael. This ar­gu­ment may come down to whether Ne­tanyahu’s eco­nomic the­ory for why the bill could help Is­rael was the­o­ret­i­cally vi­able, even if re­jected by the min­istry.

They will ask why Lapid is not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ar­gu­ing that he should be since he worked with Milchan. They will note that as fi­nance min­is­ter, any ef­forts he made dis­cussing the tax ex­emp­tions should be more crim­i­nal than Ne­tanyahu’s ac­tions, since he didn’t have di­rect au­thor­ity over the tax is­sue. With all of the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing Lapid be­ing a wit­ness, it is only his pre­vi­ous po­si­tion as fi­nance min­is­ter that mat­ters for the case.

Still, the pros­e­cu­tion can re­spond that, with Ne­tanyahu’s long his­tory of al­leged il­le­gal ben­e­fits from Milchan, he should not have touched any­thing Milchan was in­volved in. The de­fense will note that Ne­tanyahu acted to close Chan­nel 10 which could have caused Milchan a large fi­nan­cial loss. But the pros­e­cu­tion can swing back and say it doesn’t mat­ter if he acted both for and against Milchan – any­thing he touched re­lated to Milchan or did for him was il­le­gal.

For all of the in­stances where Ne­tanyahu may have tried to help Milchan, the tax ex­emp­tion is­sue is the core for de­ter­min­ing whether there was quid pro quo bribery.

While less ex­cit­ing, this is the scarier case for Ne­tanyahu.

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