Israeli police find 'sufficient evidence' to indict Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli police said Tuesday there is "sufficient evidence" to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on criminal ch...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 7:00 AM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 7:00 AM

Israeli police said Tuesday there is "sufficient evidence" to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on criminal charges in two corruption cases.

According to a police report published late Tuesday, authorities found evidence of "accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust."

Police stopped short of recommending that charges be brought against Netanyahu. That decision rests with the attorney general.

In a televised statement Tuesday, Netanyahu said that the allegations against him would come to nothing.

Netanyahu is a suspect in two separate criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. The cases involve allegations of receiving bribes, fraud, and breach of trust, according to police.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of having received gifts from businessmen overseas, including cigars for himself.

The case has focused primarily on Netanyahu's relationship with Israeli billionaire and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, though the investigation has expanded to include other wealthy businessmen with ties to Netanyahu. Milchan has denied any wrongdoing.

In Case 2000, police have investigated conversations Netanyahu had with Arnon "Noni" Mozes, the owner of one of Israel's leading newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth, which is regularly critical of the Prime Minister.

In the conversations, transcripts of which have been leaked in the Israeli media, Netanyahu allegedly discusses limiting the circulation of Yedioth Ahronoth's major competitor -- the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom, a right-wing newspaper seen as favoring Netanyahu -- in exchange for more favorable coverage.

Both Netanyahu and Mozes have said these were not serious discussions; rather, they each claim they were trying to expose the other's lack of trustworthiness.

Netanyahu has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, insisting that investigators will find he did nothing wrong. He has often employed what has become his catchphrase about the investigations: "There will be nothing because there is nothing."

Attorney general

Police will now pass the evidence to the attorney general, who will make a decision on whether or not to indict the Prime Minister. That decision is not expected imminently.

By Israeli law, he is only required to step down if he is convicted and that conviction is upheld through the appeals process to the high court, a process that could take years.

However, he could face public and political pressure to step down much earlier.

His coalition partners, so far, have backed him, saying they will not take down the government over a police conclusion.

Earlier this week, Naftali Bennett, education minister and head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said, "I wish from the depths of my heart that the PM will come out clean and will continue leading the State of Israel. An indictment sheet seems far away, and certainly one does not go for elections over (police) recommendations."

Echoing his position, Moshe Kahlon, finance minister and head of the center-right Kulanu party said, "Let the (police) recommendations be published. We will not avoid a decision, but I'm telling you right now, by law, the law says until the stage of the attorney general, there is no need to deal with it at all."

Both parties have enough seats in Netanyahu's 66-seat coalition to take down the government and force new elections.

In an effort to deflect blame, Netanyahu has lashed out, attacking the police, the media, the opposition, and the left in rallies and on social media. He has often called the investigations against him "fake news," echoing the language of President Donald Trump.

Last week, Israeli Police Chief Roni Alsheich, in an interview with Israel's Keshet news channel, said "powerful elements" were "sniffing" around investigators working on the Netanyahu cases.

Firing back, Netanyahu said he was "shocked by the insinuations" that he had sent private detectives to tail police, arguing that it casts doubt over the impartiality of the investigations.

In a strike against the police chief after the interview, Likud MK Yoav Kisch, a hardline supporter of Netanyahu from within the Prime Minister's party, summoned Alsheich to a meeting of the Interior Committee at the Knesset for Wednesday morning.

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