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13 February 2018

Police recommend corruption charges against Netanyahu

By Yaron Steinbuch  NY Post

Israeli police recommended Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for bribery and breach of trust in connection with two long-running corruption cases.

A defiant Bibi responded to the recommendations — which now rest with Israel’s attorney general — by saying they “will end with nothing” and vowing to remain in office.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has said that a prime minister who has been charged with wrongdoing is not required to resign – but the deeply embarrassing recommendations could spark calls for Netanyahu to step down.

Police have been investigating the two cases — dubbed “Case 1000” and “Case 2000” – for the past 14 months.

In the first probe, known as the “gifts affair,” Netanyahu reportedly received more than $100,000 in gifts, including cigars and top-shelf champagne, from Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and other wealthy benefactors in return for advancing their interests.

Police said that in return for the gifts, Netanyahu pushed for the so-called Milchan Law, which slashes taxes for Israelis returning to their country after spending time abroad.

According to authorities, Netanyahu acted “against public interests.”

In 2014, Netanyahu also asked then-Secretary of State John Kerry three times to intervene on behalf of Milchan and arrange a long-term visa for him to live in the US, the Times of Israel reported.

The LA-based Milchan, 73, eventually received a 10-year visa after plying Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, with gifts over many years, according to the news outlet.

In their recommendation Tuesday, police called for Milchan — who is behind such hits as “Fight Club,” “Pretty Woman” and “12 Years a Slave” — to face criminal charges, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported.

The other case involves a deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have provided the prime minister with positive coverage in exchange for support of a bill to weaken rival Israel Hayom, the largest circulation Hebrew paper.

The bill would have banned distribution of free papers, which include Israel Hayom.

Police also recommended indicting Mozes in the corruption case.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and railed against authorities Tuesday.

“These recommendations mean nothing in a democratic society,” Netanayhu said, adding that he will “continue to lead Israel responsibly and faithfully.”

He said that everything he did was for the sake of the country — “not for cigars from friends and not for better media coverage,” according to Haaretz.

According to police, after Netanyahu was elected, the number of gifts he received skyrocketed and are now valued at about $280,000, the news outlet reported.

Netanyahu has openly questioned the integrity of the police commissioner and sought to discredit other high-ranking officers handling the investigations.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich claimed in an interview last week that “powerful people” have been gathering information about the probes, Haaretz reported.

In a response on Facebook, Netanyahu has called the claims “ludicrous” and said the police chief’s comments “cast a shadow” over the investigations.

“It’s shocking to see that he [Alsheich] is repeating the outlandish and false claim that [I] supposedly used private investigators against police officers,” he wrote.

“Every decent person will ask himself: How can people who say such outlandish things regarding the prime minister then question him objectively and be impartial when it is time to reach a decision about him?” Netanyahu added.