Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for allegedly accepting bribes and breaching public trust, leaving the Attorney General to decide whether to ultimately press charges on the embattled politician.
Benjamin Netanyahu faces a fight for his political survival (Photo: Russian Presidency)
The news that Netanyahu’s acceptance of almost US$300,000 in gifts from two billionaires amounted to bribery, according to the police’s announcement, reverberated throughout Israel.
Police have been investigating Netanyahu in regards to two cases for more than a year: one where he allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for lending his influence while another concerns suspicions he conspired with the publisher of a newspaper.
A police statement said Netanyahu accepted gifts worth 750,000 shekels (now US $214,000) from Hollywood honcho Arnon Milchan, and 250,000 shekels (now $71,000) from an Australian billionaire, James Packer. The gifts from Milchan reportedly included expensive cigars, champagne and jewelry.
Police said that in exchange for the presents, Netanyahu had operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters, oversaw a tax break and introduced him to an Indian businessman. Police confirmed there is also sufficient evidence to charge both Milchan and Mozes with bribery.
In the other probe, Netanyahu allegedly asked the publisher of a Israeli newspaper, Yadiot Ahronot daily, for favourable coverage in exchange for weakening a free competitor newspaper.
Netanyahu’s position appears to be secure for now, with Israeli politicians largely sticking to partisan lines. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalistic Jewish Home party that is part of the ruling coalition, however, reserved some criticism for the veteran politician. He said Netanyahu could keep serving but was “not living up to the standard” expected of his office.
Netanyahu staunchly vowed to carry on. He claimed that the year-long graft inquiry was politically motivated. “After reading the recommendations report i can say it is a biased extreme document,” he said in a speech on Wednesday. “[It’s] full of holes like swiss cheese and it doesn’t hold water.”
Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister and a bitter rival of Netanyahu, beckoned him to suspend himself and for the coalition government to appoint a replacement as soon as possible. “The depth of corruption is horrifying,” Barak said, according to The Guardian. “This does not look like nothing. This looks like bribery.”
It’s not the first time Netanyahu has been embroiled in scandal. The Associated Press listed influence peddling and excessive travel and household expenses among a litany of examples where he may have fallen short of the high expectations demanded of those in his position.
Earlier this year a recording of a conversation between Netanyahu’s eldest son, Yair, and his friends from a drunken night out in Tel Aviv where a taxpayer funded government vehicle ferried them between strip clubs.
Yair was berating the son of Israeli tycoon, Kobi Maimon, for insisting he repays money borrowed in a strip club, because “My dad arranged $20 billion for your dad,” according to The Washington Post.
In 2016 it was revealed that Netanyahu spent more than $600,000 of public funds on a six-day trip to New York that included $1,600 on a personal hairdresser.
Three years prior, he was found to have spent $127,000 in public funds on a sleeping cabin on a flight to London. Meanwhile, his office reportedly accumulated a $2,700 bill, at a Jerusalem ice cream parlour last year.