Netanyahu Demands Right to Confront His Accusers

Critics slam Netanyahu for tricking the nation into watching what amounted to little more than an election commercial

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to live television on Monday evening to demand that he be granted the right to confront his accusers in several corruption cases currently targeting him.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu had told the nation that he had a "dramatic announcement" to make, and nearly every Israeli television channel promptly cut into their primetime broadcasts to give a platform to the prime minister's important message. He was later harshly criticized for instead putting on what the media called an "election show."

Netanyahu insisted that the investigations are being handled in a haphazard way, driven by his opponents' agenda to see him finally unseated as prime minister. "I wanted to look them in the eye and throw the truth at them," Netanyahu said of several former aides who have turned state's witnesses. "I demanded it once and was refused. I demanded it a second time and was refused. Why was I refused this confrontation, that is so necessary to uncovering the truth? What are they afraid of? What have they got to hide?"

It's not necessarily that Netanyahu didn't have a point. What irked many Israelis was the dramatization of the event, the making everyone think that something actually important was going to be announced, rather than yet another statement regarding an investigation that most people here are hardly aware of, let alone care about.

The wave of disapproval over Netanyahu's showmanship was quick in coming, even from voices to the right of the political spectrum.

"In court, Netanyahu can confront the state witnesses during the cross examination as much as he wants," wrote conservative pundit Avishai Grinzaig, suggesting that a primetime "dramatic" press briefing wasn't the appropriate podium for such remarks.

Barak Ravid, a reporter for Channel 10 News, which like all the others had interrupted its primetime broadcast to accommodate the prime minister, railed, "This wasn’t a dramatic announcement — it was hutzpah on live TV."

Netanyahu "is behaving as if he is in a reality show," said a bewildered Guy Peleg, reporter for Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2 News).

Naturally, the prime minister's political opponents had a field day with his little stunt.

"In a normal country, a prime minister does not behave this way," insisted Avi Gabbay, head of the Labor Party.

Current-Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich was more shrill, accusing Netanyahu of "a blatant and coarse intervention…in his legal case, while creating a fake drama out of nothing and taking over screen time like a dictator."

Even the justice ministry, which is controlled by Netanyahu's own coalition partners, took issue with his televised remarks.

"Every action carried out as part of the investigations relating to the prime minister were conducted professionally and thoroughly, with the assistance of the Tel Aviv District Attorney and under the supervision of the state attorney and the attorney general, all according to professional considerations," read a statement released by ministry officials.


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