Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Shlomo Filber, former director general of the communications ministry in court, May 15, 2017.

The Jerusalem District Court dealt an apparent severe blow to the prosecution and its case against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday when it ruled that the indictment would not be changed.

Following testimonies and evidence given in the case, various details, particularly in the timeline, did not align with the indictment against Netanyahu alleging bribery and breach of trust, the prosecution requested to amend it, and the court rejected their claim. The court said that no new evidence or change of circumstances was found to justify amending the indictment.

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The prosecution based much of their case on alleged facilitation meetings between former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber and Netanyahu, but security records and GPS data show that no such meetings happened between the Filber and Netanyahu during those dates.

This ruins the timeline of events the prosecution presented. The prosecution may now try and claim that Netanyahu still gave instructions, but without presenting any timeline as to when that could have allegedly happened.

The ruling was given in Case 4000, which alleges that Shaul Elovitch, former owner of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq and of the Walla! news portal, pressured his CEO, Ilan Yeshua, to arrange positive coverage of Netanyahu on Walla! in exchange for the prime minister advancing regulations that would benefit Elovitch.

The regulatory benefits were worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq, of which Elovitch was a major shareholder at the time.

This latest ruling punches another hole in Case 4000, the prosecution’s main case against Netanyahu. The court still leaves open the possibility of convicting Netanyahu and Elovitch, but this is significantly more difficult now.

Netanyahu also faces charges in Case 1000, which involves expensive gifts that he allegedly received from wealthy supporters, particularly from Israeli-born movie producer Arnon Milchan, possibly in return for favors.

Case 2000 alleges bribery between Netanyahu and Yedioth Aharonoth owner Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu supposedly offered to use his power to hinder the influence of Yedioth’s main rival, Israel Hayom, through legislation that would minimize Israel Hayom’s distribution, in return for Yedioth’s reduction of negative coverage of Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be tried, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and his supporters have called the allegations a witch hunt by a “hostile media” against him and his family and have accused the judicial system of attempting to unseat a prime minister in an undemocratic process.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.