Po­lice rec­om­mend bribery charges against Ne­tanyahu in two cases

Defiant PM: I will gain pub­lic’s faith in next elec­tion • In­dict­ments also sought for Arnon Milchan and Arnon Mozes

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By UDI SHAHAM and HERB KEINON

Af­ter a 14-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion, po­lice an­nounced on Tues­day that they have enough ev­i­dence to rec­om­mend to the state pros­e­cu­tion to in­dict Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000, the “gifts af­fair” and Case 2000, the “Ye­diot Aharonot af­fair.”

But in an im­pas­sioned 10-minute re­but­tal to po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions from his of­fi­cial res­i­dence, Ne­tanyahu told the na­tion on Tues­day night that not only will this gov­ern­ment com­plete its term, but he will again be re­elected in 2019.

Ne­tanyahu said that the only thing that mo­ti­vated him since his days as an of­fi­cer in the elite Gen­eral Staff Re­con­nais­sance Unit through his days as am­bas­sador to the UN, fi­nance min­is­ter and for the last nine years as prime min­is­ter, has been the good of the coun­try.

If he had wanted to en­rich him­self, Ne­tanyahu said, “if that is what mo­ti­vated me, I would have been in a dif­fer­ent place a long time ago.”

“What mo­ti­vates me is one thing,” he said “to en­sure the fu­ture of our state. There­fore I say to you, this gov­ern­ment will ful­fill its term, and to­gether with the rest of the min­is­ters of the gov­ern­ment we will con­tinue to turn Is­rael into a ris­ing world power – an eco­nomic, tech­no­log­i­cal and mil­i­tary su­per­power that en­joys its best in­ter­na­tional po­si­tion ever.”

In Case 1000, the “gifts af­fair,” it is al­leged that Ne­tanyahu im­prop­erly ac­cepted ex­pen­sive gifts from two busi­ness­men: in­ter­na­tional movie pro­ducer Arnon Milchan and Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire James Packer.

A po­lice state­ment said that it found that Ne­tanyahu re­ceived bribes in the sum of mil­lions of shekels. Some NIS 750,000 came from Milchan, and some NIS 250,000 came from Packer. The bribes were given to Ne­tanyahu and his fam­ily in the form of cigars, cham­pagne, jew­elry and other goods.

The gifts were given to the Ne­tanyahu fam­ily be­tween the years 2007 and 2016.

Po­lice pre­sented sev­eral is­sues that were found dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion:

• The “Milchan bill:” Po­lice sus­pect that Ne­tanyahu acted to pro­mote a bill that would ben­e­fit re­turn­ing Is­raeli cit­i­zens re­gard­ing tax pay­ments. It states that the es­ti­mated ben­e­fit for Milchan could have been hun­dreds of mil­lions of shekels. A key wit­ness in this case was MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who was the fi­nance min­is­ter at the dis­cussed pe­riod.

Po­lice also said that “the Trea­sury blocked the mo­tion, ex­plain­ing that it would not pro­mote the na­tional in­ter­est and would not help the na­tional fund.”

• US visa to Milchan: Po­lice sus­pect that Ne­tanyahu acted to con­tact the US ad­min­is­tra­tion to as­sist Milchan with ex­tend­ing his US visa.

• Reshet-Keshet: Po­lice sus­pected that Ne­tanyahu acted to pro­mote the en­trance of Milchan as a share­holder in the for­mer Chan­nel 2. It added that the prime min­is­ter did it while he was the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter and used the power from his po­si­tion.

• The Tata ini­tia­tive: Po­lice sus­pect that Ne­tanyahu worked to ad­vance a spe­cial trade zone with In­dian busi­ness­man Ratan Tata, on be­half of Milchan.

• Chan­nel 10: Po­lice sus­pect that the prime min­is­ter acted in an un­law­ful man­ner and that there was a con­flict of in­ter­est while han­dling the at­tempted clos­ing of Chan­nel 10, which Milchan par­tially owned.

Po­lice also rec­om­mended the in­dict­ment of Milchan for

brib­ing Ne­tanyahu.

IN CASE 2000, the “Ye­diot Aharonot af­fair,” Ne­tanyahu ne­go­ti­ated with pub­lisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes for fa­vor­able cov­er­age of him­self in Ye­diot Aharonot in ex­change for sup­port of a bill to weaken Is­rael Hayom, the largest cir­cu­la­tion He­brew-lan­guage paper, and Ye­diot’s big­gest com­peti­tor.

Mean­while, Ne­tanyahu dis­as­sem­bled the charges against him, say­ing that rather than us­ing his power to as­sist bil­lion­aire movie mogul Arnon Milchan, he ac­tu­ally sup­ported laws to Milchan’s detri­ment. He claimed that his work­ing with the US author­i­ties to get a visa for Milchan was not be­cause of the cigars the mogul gave him, but rather be­cause of the work Milchan did as an in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tive in the past.

Re­gard­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion that he be in­dicted in the “Ye­diot Aharonot af­fair,” Ne­tanyahu said that he was op­posed to the law that would have curbed Is­rael Hayom – he acted against it, voted against it and risked his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in 2014 as well as called elec­tions be­cause of it.

“Since I was elected prime min­is­ter, there was hardly a sin­gle day in which I was not sub­jected to slander and false claims,” he said. “Over the years there have been no less than 15 in­ves­ti­ga­tions against me with the goal of bring­ing me down. They all be­gan with ex­plo­sive head­lines, live broad­casts from the stu­dios, and some of them even with noisy po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions [to in­dict], just like to­day.”

And, he said, “all these at­tempts ended in noth­ing be­cause I know the truth: I tell you, this too will end in noth­ing.”

Ne­tanyahu, who for weeks has been pre­par­ing the pub­lic for what he said was a fore­gone con­clu­sion, said that in a demo­cratic regime, the po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions have no stand­ing.

“I am not say­ing this de­fi­antly, but as a ba­sic fact of our democ­racy. Is­rael is a state of law, and ac­cord­ing to the law, the po­lice do not de­ter­mine and de­cide, but only the au­tho­rized le­gal bod­ies.” He pointed out that more than half of all po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions on in­dict­ments are not ac­cepted.

Ne­tanyahu also said that the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion it­self was tainted, as some of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieved he had acted to un­der­mine them, hinted to by Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Roni Al­she­ich ear­lier this month. How can they now “[be] ob­jec­tive [to the] rec­om­men­da­tions?” he asked, adding that the al­le­ga­tions, which claimed he worked against the in­ves­ti­ga­tors, were ridicu­lous.

“I am sure that the truth will come to light,” Ne­tanyahu said in his con­clud­ing re­marks. “And I am cer­tain that in the next elec­tions, which will take place on time, I will re­gain your faith – with God’s help.”

PO­LICE SAID that the trig­ger for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was record­ings that were found in Ari Harow’s phone. Harow is Ne­tanyahu’s for­mer chief of staff. Po­lice sus­pect that Ne­tanyahu and Mozes ini­ti­ated moves that would ben­e­fit both of them, in­clud­ing the sup­port of the prime min­is­ter in the “Is­rael Hayom bill,” re­duc­ing the cir­cu­la­tion of the news­pa­per, and can­cel­ing its week­end sup­ple­ment.

Po­lice also stated that Ne­tanyahu con­ducted these ne­go­ti­a­tions while he was com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, po­lice also found enough ev­i­dence to rec­om­mend the in­dict­ment of Mozes for at­tempted bribery charges.

Now that the po­lice have made their rec­om­men­da­tions, the ball is in At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Avichai Man­del­blit’s court. The rec­om­men­da­tions are not bind­ing and there is no set time frame for when he must de­cide whether to in­dict as the po­lice pro­posed or close the case.

In other cases with top min­is­ters, it was not un­com­mon for the at­tor­ney-gen­eral to take sev­eral months or even close to a year to de­cide. Even once Man­del­blit makes an ini­tial de­ci­sion Ne­tanyahu would get a se­ries of pre-in­dict­ment hear­ings, which could draw out a case for sev­eral more months.

How­ever, some­times at­tor­ney-gen­er­als have ac­cel­er­ated their de­ci­sions to make sure they come out be­fore a new elec­tion. Ne­tanyahu is not ob­li­gated to re­sign un­der the ex­plicit statute be­fore a fi­nal con­vic­tion and ex­haust­ing all ap­peals.

How­ever, the High Court of Jus­tice has forced res­ig­na­tions of min­is­ters who were in­dicted based on ju­di­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

In a “busi­ness as usual” move, the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice re­leased Ne­tanyahu’s sched­ule for Wed­nes­day late on Tues­day night, with the prime min­is­ter slated to at­tend the Muni-Expo Lo­cal Author­i­ties Con­fer­ence in Tel Aviv.

(Reuters)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­liv­ers a state­ment in Jerusalem last night fol­low­ing the po­lice’s rec­om­men­da­tion that he be in­dicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

(Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

ARNON MOZES

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