Ne­tanyahu looks to ex­ude calm in the face of charges

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s cir­cle at­tempted to con­vey calm yes­ter­day amid re­ports of a slew of cor­rup­tions charges against him that threat­ened to force him from of­fice. Ne­tanyahu him­self did not ad­dress the lat­est de­vel­op­ments at his weekly Cab­i­net meet­ing, but a close ally said he was re­laxed and con­fi­dent de­spite re­ports that po­lice were pre­par­ing to rec­om­mend he be in­dicted.

“I am not wor­ried at all. The prime min­is­ter is not wor­ried ei­ther,” said Sports and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Miri Regev, one of the few min­is­ters to rush to Ne­tanyahu’s de­fense. “As he has said re­peat­edly: ‘there will be noth­ing, since there is noth­ing.’ Part of the me­dia and the op­po­si­tion are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to top­ple the right and top­ple Ne­tanyahu. It won’t help them. You re­place the lead­er­ship at the bal­lot box, not in in­ves­ti­ga­tions and not in head­lines.”

On Thurs­day, Is­raeli po­lice re­vealed they sus­pect Ne­tanyahu of be­ing in­volved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a pair of cases. On Fri­day, Ne­tanyahu’s for­mer chief of staff and long­time con­fi­dante Ari Harow signed a state wit­ness set­tle­ment in which he agreed to tes­tify against his for­mer men­tor. This has raised spec­u­la­tion that Ne­tanyahu could be in­dicted shortly, and sparked calls from op­po­si­tion fig­ures that he step down. Harow will serve six months of com­mu­nity ser­vice and pay a fine of 700,000 Shekels (about $193,000) for his in­volve­ment in a sep­a­rate cor­rup­tion case - ap­par­ently a lighter-than-ex­pected sen­tence in ex­change for his tes­ti­mony against the prime min­is­ter. Ne­tanyahu has re­peat­edly de­nied wrong­do­ing and calls the ac­cu­sa­tions a witch hunt fu­eled by a hos­tile me­dia op­posed to his hard-line po­lit­i­cal views.

Ne­tanyahu has been ques­tioned sev­eral times “un­der cau­tion” about his sup­posed il­licit ties to ex­ec­u­tives in me­dia, in­ter­na­tional busi­ness and Hol­ly­wood. One in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing Ne­tanyahu dubbed by po­lice as “File 1000,” re­port­edly con­cerns claims he im­prop­erly ac­cepted lav­ish gifts from wealthy sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire James Packer and Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Arnon Milchan.

The sec­ond in­ves­ti­ga­tion, “File 2000,” re­port­edly con­cerns Ne­tanyahu’s al­leged at­tempts to strike a deal with pub­lisher Arnon Mozes of the Ye­diot Ahronot news­pa­per group to pro­mote leg­is­la­tion to weaken Ye­diot’s main com­peti­tor in ex­change for more fa­vor­able cov­er­age of Ne­tanyahu by Ye­diot. A third in­ves­ti­ga­tion, “File 3000,” re­lates to a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­ests in­volv­ing the pur­chase of Ger­man sub­marines, in which Ne­tanyahu’s cousin and per­sonal at­tor­ney rep­re­sented the Ger­man firm in­volved in the deal.

JERUSALEM: Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu (C) speaks dur­ing the weekly cab­i­net meet­ing at his of­fice.

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