Israeli police recommend Netanyahu face charges for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust
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Israeli police said Tuesday they had recommended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu face charges for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust following long-standing investigations into two cases of alleged corruption.
Police issued a statement saying they had "sufficient evidence" to issue the recommendations, which now go to the attorney general for a decision on whether to pursue an indictment against the prime minister. The deliberations on whether and how to move forward are expected to take weeks or even months.
Soon after the news broke on Tuesday night, Netanyahu addressed the nation in a live televised address proclaiming his innocence, saying the police recommendations against him would "end with nothing".
"Over the years, I have been the subject of at least 15 enquiries and investigations," Netanyahu said.
"Some have ended with thunderous police recommendations like those of tonight. All of those attempts resulted in nothing, and this time again they will come to nothing."
"I will continue to lead Israel responsibly and faithfully," he added.
Known as Case 1000, the first allegations detail the “committing of crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu”.
Police also named Arnon Milchan – a Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen – as well as Australian businessman James Packer in the accusations, saying that they “over years awarded gifts of various types” including champagne, cigars and jewellery to Netanyahu and his family. Netanyahu’s lawyers have said the presents were simply tokens of friendship and that no quid pro quo was involved.
In all, the gifts were worth more than 1 million shekels ($280,000), the police statement said.
The second accusations, Case 2000, also alleges “bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister” as well as by Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the biggest-selling Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Police say the two men discussed ways of halting the growth of rival daily newspaper Israel Hayom “through legislation and other means”.
Netanyahu has long denied the allegations, and a prime minister facing such police recommendations – or who has been formally charged with offences – is not obliged to resign.
He is not the first Israeli prime minister to face corruption allegations. Ehud Olmert, who served as premier from 2006 to 2009, served 17 months in prison after being convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)