The Israel police on Tuesday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of corruption, fraud and bribery. Following over a year of investigating criminal charges against the Prime Minister, the police published its recommendations and detailed allegations in a report. The police said there is “sufficient evidence that suspicions of bribery were committed.”
According to The Times of Israel, Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist Yesh Atid opposition party, was a key witness against Netanyahu. He reportedly provided proof which showed the PM pushed for amendments to a law that allowed his benefactors millions of dollars in tax breaks.
It is now up to Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, to file charges against Netanyahu, 67, a process that could reportedly take weeks if not months.
Has Netanyahu’s responded?
After the police made its recommendations public on Tuesday, Netanyahu, in a televised address, denied allegations levelled against him. Calling them baseless, he told the public he would continue to lead Israel till the end of his term as Prime Minister. “I will continue to lead Israel responsibly and faithfully for as long as you, the citizens of Israel, choose me to lead you.”
“I am certain, I am certain, that the truth will be revealed, and I am certain that at the next elections, which will be held on schedule, I will earn your trust again, with God’s help,” he added. “Because I know the truth, I tell you … things will end in nothing.”
Despite speculation that the Prime Minister would call early elections, seeking public mandate against him — which could influence the AG’s decision to prosecute — Netanyahu said he was “certain” the next election will be held on schedule. The next general elections in Israel will be held in November 2019.
What are the cases against Netanyahu?
The first case against Netanyahu, known as Case 1000 alleged the “committing of crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister.” According to the police, Netanyahu and his family received gifts worth $212,000 from Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, and $70,000 from Australian businessman James Packer from 2007 to 2016, reported The Times of Israel. The gifts reportedly included champagne, cigars and jewellery.
While Netanyahu’s lawyers claim the presents were tokens of friendship, legal proceedings would focus on whether political favours were sought or granted.
Case 2000, the second lodged against Netanyahu, alleged Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, tried to slow the growth of rival daily Israel Hayom “through legislation and other means.” The police are probing “bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister.”
Yedioth Ahronoth is the most circulated papers in the country. Netanyahu has denied allegations in this case.
What happens next?
Netanyahu hopes to complete his term in office. Despite police recommendations, Netanyahu does not need to resign from his position. However, if he decides to step down, a successor from within Likud would take the reins. Only if he is convicted in the cases, will he have to resign.
According to Reuters, there is little pressure from Netanyahu’s coalition partners for his to step down. The possible contenders for the position include Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz and former Education Minister Gideon Saar.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who are from Likud’s alliance partners, are also vying for the position.
(With inputs from agencies)