Earlier this month, Israel Hayom revealed that just before Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit concluded his 4-day pre-indictment hearing for Netanyahu, two senior American jurists, Nathan Lewin and Prof. Avi Bell were ushered into the hearing room. Mendelblit is expected to decide in the next month whether he will indict Netanyahu in the three cases code-named Case 1,000, Case 2,000 and Case 4,000.
Case 1,000 relates to cigars and champagne that Netanyahu allegedly received as gifts from wealthy friends. It is the least serious of the cases.
Cases 2,000 and 4,000, which are considered more serious, relate to Netanyahu’s dealings with owners of media organizations. They are based on a legal theory advocated by State Attorney Shai Nitzan. Nitzan claims that the provision of positive coverage to politicians by news organizations is a form of bribery.
Lewin and Bell presented the opposite claim. Bell and Lewin warned Mendelblit that if he adopted Nitzan’s view and defined the provision of positive coverage to a public servant by a media company as bribery, this will strike a fatal blow at the freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Israel. Indeed, he will undermine the very foundations of Israeli democracy.
As they wrote in their written brief, “Prosecution of the Netanyahu case would signal to journalists and media executives that favorable or damaging publicity about a candidate may be investigated by the police and by prosecutors to determine whether the publicity was a quid exchanged for the quo of official action. If the police and prosecutors are empowered to probe the mixed motives of journalists and politicians, they can exercise arbitrary control over essential institutions of democracy.”