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
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
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.
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.