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Corruption Charges Suggested for Netanyahu 14-02-2018

By DAVID M. HALBFINGER and ISABEL KERSHNER

JERUSALEM — The Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, casting a pall over the future of a tenacious leader who has become almost synonymous with his country. The announcement instantly raised doubts about his ability to stay in office.

Concluding a yearlong graft investigation, the police recommended that Mr. Netanyahu face prosecution in two corruption cases: a gifts-for-favors affair known as Case 1000, and a second scandal, called Case 2000, in which Mr. Netanyahu is suspected of back-room dealings with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular newspaper Yediot Aharonot, to ensure more favorable coverage.

All told, the police accused Mr. Netanyahu of accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts over 10 years.

Mr. Netanyahu, addressing the nation live on television shortly before the police released their findings around 9 p.m., made clear that he would not step down. “I feel a deep obligation to continue to lead Israel in a way that will ensure our future,” he said, before embarking on a 12-minute defense of his conduct.

“You know I do everything with only one thing in mind — the good of the country,” he said. “Not for cigars from a friend, not for media coverage, not for anything. Only for the good of the state. Nothing has made me deviate, or will make me deviate, from this sacred mission.”

The police recommendations must now be examined by state prosecutors and the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, a former military prosecutor and onetime Netanyahu aide.

The final decision about whether to file formal charges lies with Mr. Mandelblit and is subject to a hearing beforehand with Mr. Netanyahu’s lawyers. Reaching that threshold alone could easily take months.

According to the police, expensive cigars, jewelry and pink champagne flowed into the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence in quantities sufficient to stock a small cocktail lounge. The generous patrons included Arnon Milchan, the Israeli movie producer, and James Packer, an Australian billionaire.

But it is the favors Mr. Netanyahu may have given his wealthy friends in return that could herald his downfall. A formal bribery charge would be by far the most serious outcome, and the most ominous for his political survival.

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