Categories: World News

Israeli police recommend charging Benjamin Netanyahu in corruption cases

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli police recommended charging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases, a decision that could spark the biggest fight of his political life.

Police say they found evidence Netanyahu traded his influence for favors, a nonbinding conclusion that Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit will have to weigh as he decides whether to file charges against a sitting Israeli premier for the first time. Netanyahu, who years ago survived two prior police recommendations to indict him, has denied any wrongdoing and claims he’s the victim of a witch hunt by left-wing opponents.

For more than a year, detectives have been investigating circumstances surrounding cigars, champagne and other gifts Netanyahu has acknowledged accepting from wealthy friends, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer. They have also investigated an unconsummated deal the prime minister discussed with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, to pass legislation that would weaken another daily in exchange for more favorable coverage.

Netanyahu denied the allegations in a press conference Tuesday night, calling the police recommendations “disturbed” and claiming the investigations were intended to topple his government.

The recommendation to indict was anticipated, and coalition partners have rallied around a prime minister still popular with his right-wing base. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has said Netanyahu can continue to govern even if Mandelblit ultimately decides to indict him.

“We might see some political turmoil, but I think the government is quite stable. I don’t see any weak part of the chain here,” said Eran Vigoda-Gadot, a political science professor at the Haifa University. “It’s important to realize that Netanyahu’s political base is very loyal, these are people with an emotional connection to the Likud party. They’ll say ‘So what if he took some gifts and some money? He’s a brilliant English speaker who knows how to represent us in the world stage.’ “

Vigoda-Gadot predicted it will take several weeks for Mandelblit to make a decision. If he decides to indict Netanyahu, court proceedings could drag out for a year.

The investigations have dominated the national debate and polarized Israel’s already fractious politics, with Netanyahu accusing opponents of acting in concert with the “left-wing media” to topple his government. His dismissive accusations of “fake news” and his denunciations of the police have echoed U.S. President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media, the FBI, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Two bigger corruption cases have edged close to Netanyahu without directly entangling him as a suspect. Confidants — including his personal lawyer and the lead negotiator in some of Israel’s most delicate diplomacy of recent years — are suspected of wrongdoing in a $2.5 billion deal to purchase submarines and patrol boats from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp AG. Separately, the director-general of the Communications Ministry, a Netanyahu appointee, was suspended after being accused of coordinating regulatory moves with Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp., controlled
by Netanyahu’s friend Shaul Elovitch.

Netanyahu is no stranger to investigations. In 1997, during his first term, police wanted him to stand trial in an influence-peddling case involving the appointment of an attorney general. While he was between terms, police recommended in 2000 that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, be prosecuted on suspicion of bribery and theft of state gifts. Neither set of recommendations ripened into charges, with attorneys general citing insufficient evidence to indict.

Montse Reyes

Published by
Montse Reyes

Recent Posts

California housing legislation proving to be effective

While California continues to battle a statewide housing shortage, glimmers of hope have emerged in the form of legislation aimed…

7 hours ago

Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy, to be purchased by Dallas-based company

Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners has agreed to purchase The Weinstein Co. as part of the movie studio’s bankruptcy filing late…

7 hours ago

CCSF weighs partnership with school district, SFSU for proposed education center in the Bayview

City College of San Francisco is exploring a partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District and San Francisco State…

7 hours ago

Native Americans deserve a restored cultural center

For almost a year, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota was a gathering place for people protesting the…

7 hours ago

March 21-22: Hakone cherry blossoms, Robert Hass, David Koehn, Aubrey Logan, Hobo Johnson, Vertigo, Common Deer, Schwabacher Recital, Spring Selections

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 Cherry blossom viewing: Hakone, one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the U.S., host its first public…

8 hours ago

Gossip’s Beth Ditto goes for guitars on solo album

Arkansas-bred, Portland-based vocal powerhouse Beth Ditto is proud of the five edgy albums she made during her 15 years fronting…

8 hours ago