Kafe Knesset for November 8
Spotlight on Dermer: Investigations against the PM and his associates have accelerated this week, along with news reports about some of the suspicions. As Netanyahu’s confidants, lawyers Isaac Molcho and David Shimron, concluded their third consecutive day of questioning, Channel 2 broke the news that another of Bibi’s closest people has visited the police headquarters lately – Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer. According to the report, Dermer was summoned to testify on the actions taken by Netanyahu to help Arnon Milchan obtain a US visa, and about alleged contacts with former Secretary of State John Kerry to help Milchan with the matter. It was also reported that the State Department had not yet approved the Israeli Justice Ministry’s request to take testimony from Dan Shapiro, former US ambassador to Israel, on the same affair. Dermer is the last in a long list of Netanyahu’s advisors who have found themselves part of the several probes, including Molcho and Shimron, former chiefs of staff Ari Harow (who signed a state witness agreement), David Sharan, and former deputy national security advisor Avriel Bar Yosef, who are suspects in the Submarine Affair, a/k/a File 3000.
The Dermer report prompted Netanyahu to issue a response attributed to “sources close to the PM,” in which he first admits that he acted to help Milchan with the US visa, but claims that he did it for the sake of the security of Israel. “The wave of lewd and illegal leaks continues – this time in an attempt to discredit the Prime Minister only because he fulfilled his obligation to safeguard the security of the State of Israel,” the sources said. “The reason that Milchan’s visa was denied to Milchan was media reports about his contribution to Israeli security. It is inconceivable that a person who helped Israel’s security would be harmed by this contribution and that a Prime Minister in Israel would remain indifferent to it. The Prime Minister also addressed foreign governments in the matter of Meir Dagan and others who contributed to the security of Israel.”
Another Bibi bill: A bill accused of being meant to shield Netanyahu from a corruption indictment passed a preliminary vote in the Knesset today. The proposal by MK David Amsalem would prevent police investigators from telling the state prosecutors whether or not they think there is enough evidence for an indictment. Not only is the timing controversial, as Netanyahu’s investigations seem to be winding up, but critics within the coalition, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, have pointed out that this will create a greater burden on the Attorney General’s Office, which will have to go through all the raw materials again, without a Police summary. The bill moved forward despite the disagreements within the coalition, because Amsalem agreed that major changes would be made to it, limiting its scope to high-profile cases in which the Attorney General works with the Police, anyway. But Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria rebelled against the coalition and voted against it, on principle.