Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a prime time newscast on Monday evening to claim he had been treated unfairly by law enforcement in a corruption probe, after initially promising to make a “special” announcement.
Netanyahu had said that he would deliver a “dramatic” message to the media, prompting news agencies and journalists to prepare to report on some consequential development — but when the broadcast began, it became clear that his statement was more of a personal one.
In front of a prime time audience, Netanyahu complained that he had twice “demanded a confrontation” with the states witnesses in the corruption cases against him, but was refused. “I wanted to look them in the eyes and show them the truth. I asked twice and was rejected,” he said.
The comments, during which Netanyahu continued to complain about his treatment by law enforcement agencies and the media, elicited groans from journalists and other viewers on Twitter who had been expecting something a little more…well, dramatic.
Does @netanyahu really think its appropriate to publicly confront those who've turned states witnesses against him? And on TV no less….
— Ruth Marks Eglash (@reglash) January 7, 2019
A tense Netanyahu is standing in front of his nation on prime time and claiming to be a victim who was denied his demand for a confrontation with his accusers– love streamed, if need be. "Even a prime minister has the right to due process."
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) January 7, 2019
So Netanyahu's dramatic statement is to complain he is being treated unfairly by law enforcement. Clever effort to capture campaign momentum, shore up his base, sow more criticism among the far right-religious about the non-religious legal system. Will it work? https://t.co/cM76DoLmal
— Brent E. Sasley (@besasley) January 7, 2019
Israel's Channel 10 news even decided to cut away in the middle of the supposedly serious announcement when it became obvious that it would not be as sensational as anticipated.
In December, Israeli police recommended that Netanyahu and his wife Sara should be indicted for bribery in the corruption scandal known as Case 4000, saying in a statement that the prime minister was suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for policy decisions that favored a media mogul who controlled Israeli telecom firm Bezeq. The police had also already recommended charges be brought against him in two other cases.
After his comments, Israeli opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich said Netanyahu had engaged in a “cynical and pathetic elections speech” from someone who was “trying with all his might to escape the law." She called his statement a “gross and blatant intervention” in the legal process, accused him of creating a “fake drama full of nothing” and taking up screen time like a “dictator.”
Left wing Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg also mocked Netanyahu's "dramatic" announcement, saying the “only dramatic thing here is a prime minister who remains in office while there are three recommends to indict him for bribery.”
The statement was, however, defended by some of Netanyahus allies. Likud party member Nava Boker called out “bias” against the PM, while finding “no reason for [confronting the witnesses] not be approved.” Culture Minister Miri Regev claimed the investigators “do not really want to find the truth, but are sticking to a version that suits them,” while stating he believes Netanyahu is “innocent.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied the charges, but likely hasn't exactly won over the media with the anticlimactic Monday evening stunt.
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