“This is how they try to overthrow a powerful prime minister from the right. This is what an attempted coup looks like,” said Netanyahu.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had strong words for state prosecutors and the Israeli justice system on Monday, referring to the criminal case against him as “an attempted coup” and a “witch hunt.”
Netanyahu gave a televised speech from his home after the first day of the evidentiary phase in his trial. He is facing charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. He told the Israeli public that he was the victim of an illegitimate investigation aimed at toppling him from power.
“This is how they try to overthrow a powerful prime minister from the right. This is what an attempted coup looks like,” he said. “What is happening is an effort to trample democracy, over and over again. They are attempting to annul the will of the electorate.”
During his speech, he specifically singled out the lead prosecutor, Liat Ben-Ari, and attorney general Avichai Mandelblit.
“Today I heard high-level words [from Ben-Ari] on abuse of power. What hypocrisy. The entire process against me was marked by the heavy-handed abuse of the powers of… the prosecution,” he said.
“The prosecution opened the investigations against the prime minister of Israel illegally… in breach of a Basic Law,” he said, referring to Mandelblit.
Mandelblit, as attorney general, should have approved an investigation of the prime minister in writing, and failed to do so. Netanyahu’s attorneys have argued this procedural failure should result in a dismissal of the charges.
“It’s a witch hunt. They didn’t investigate a crime, they didn’t look for a crime; they hunted for a man, they hunted me.”
Channel 13 News reported that Justice Ministry and police officials were disturbed by the prime minister’s remarks.
“Netanyahu’s speech targeted and personally endangered the state prosecutors,” a senior police official was quoted as saying.
“This was a very sharply worded speech that could cause extremists who hear this mantra over and again to take action and harm the prosecutors.”