This is depressing, as Benjamin Netanyahu has proven to be a strong, dignified prime minister for the nation of Israel.
Israeli police announced on Tuesday that they would be recommending that Netanyahu be indicted on bribery, as well as breach of trust charges in several corruption cases.
From the Associated Press:
Netanyahu angrily rejected the accusations, which included accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts from a pair of billionaires. He accused police of being on a witch hunt and vowed to remain in office and even seek re-election.
There’s that term, again.
“I will continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly and loyally as long as you, the citizens of Israel, choose me to lead you,” an ashen-faced Netanyahu said in a televised address. “I am sure that the truth will come to light. And I am sure that also in the next election that will take place on time I will win your trust again, with God’s help.”
He’s gone through an embarrassing few months, with not only pressure on himself, but unflattering coverage of incidents involving his wife and son, as well.
In what has been a yearlong investigation, the claims rest with two billionaires – Hollywood big wheel, Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
There was also a claim that he gave preferential treatment to a specific newspaper publisher, in exchange for favorable coverage.
Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit will now examine the evidence, and determine whether there’s enough there to move forward with the charges. Meanwhile, Netanyahu gets to continue on in his position.
So what brought about the charges?
In a statement, police said their investigation found sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu in the first case, known as File 1000, for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.
It said Netanyahu had accepted gifts valued at 750,000 shekels ($214,000) from Milchan, and 250,000 shekels ($71,000) from Packer. The gifts from Milchan reportedly included expensive cigars and champagne.
Police said that in return, Netanyahu had operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman. It said he also helped Milchan, an Israeli producer whose credits include “Pretty Woman,” ″12 Years a Slave” and “JFK,” in the Israeli media market.
In the second case, known as “File 2000,” Netanyahu reportedly was recorded asking Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yediot Ahronot daily, for positive coverage in exchange for promoting legislation that would weaken a free newspaper that had cut into Yediot’s business.
Police said there was sufficient evidence to charge both Milchan and Mozes with bribery.
Milchan contends that there was no bribery, stating that he and Netanyahu had a relationship that went back to 2000, before he was prime minister, and that their families were friends.
In what mirrors the political conflict here, the reactions to the news was predictably partisan.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a bitter rival of Netanyahu, called on him to suspend himself and for the coalition to appoint a replacement on Wednesday morning.
“The depth of corruption is horrifying,” Barak said. “This does not look like nothing. This looks like bribery.”
Well, of course it does, to you.
Netanyahu’s party is standing behind him, however.
Cabinet Minister Miri Regev said she was “not excited” by the police recommendations and urged patience while the attorney general reviews the case.
She said the biggest surprise was that Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, had been a witness. David Amsalem, another Netanyahu confidant, called Lapid a “snitch.”
Snitches get stiches, ya’ll.
“Someone with such serious accusations against them, many of which he does not even deny, cannot continue to serve as prime minister with responsibility for the security and well-being of Israel’s citizens,” Lapid said.
Netanyahu made his appeal to the people of Israel in his televised statement, saying that he did help Milchan with visa issues, but that Milchan had been a friend to Israel, and that even the late Shimon Perez was a friend of Milchan’s.
He pointed out that he’d also made some moves in government that hurt Milchan’s interests.
“How can allegations be taken seriously that in exchange for cigars I acted for Arnon Milchen’s benefit?” he said.
He said all the allegations over the years against him had one goal: “to topple me from government.”
He said past scandals had all “ended with nothing” and “this time as well they will end with nothing.”
I really hope that’s the case.
As for his wife and son:
Recordings recently emerged of his wife, Sara, screaming at an aide, while separate recordings caught his eldest son, Yair, on a drunken night out at a series of Tel Aviv strip clubs while traveling around in a taxpayer-funded government car with a government-funded bodyguard. The younger Netanyahu ended up spending the night in a luxury Tel Aviv apartment owned by Packer.
When it rains, it pours.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been prime minister for nine years. This may be the worst he’s had to endure, in all of that time.