3. Israeli police recommend indicting Netanyahu in bribery case
The Israeli police recommended that the country's attorney general should indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu for alleged bribery on Sunday due to their relationship with Israel's leading telecommunication tycoon — widely known as "Case 4000."
Why it matters: This is a very big deal. "Case 4000" is the third time in the last year that the police recommended Netanyahu should be indicted for bribery. The previous recommendations dealt with Netanyahu allegedly taking "gifts" worth $200,000 from businessmen in return for allegedly promoting their interests ("Case 1000") and an alleged bribe deal between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel's largest newspaper and an archenemy of Sheldon Adelson ("Case 2000"). But the allegations in "Case 4000" are the gravest of all the corruption investigations against Netanyahu.
The backdrop: "Case 4000" has been investigated by the Israeli police's elite unit "Lahav 433," the Israeli equivalent of the FBI, and the Israeli Securities Authority since February 2018.
- The police statement stressed that Netanyahu and Elovitz had a "relationship based on bribes" and that Netanyahu and his associates brazenly meddled — sometimes on a daily basis — in the coverage of Walla website. According to the police Netanyahu and his wife asked to publish positive stories about them and to prevent the publishing of negative stories. According to the police Netanyahu and his associates even tried to influence appointments of news editors and reporters in order to promote the Netanyahu family interests.
The police recommended that the attorney general indict Netanyahu for taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and acceptance under false pretenses. The police recommended that Sarah Netanyahu be indicted for taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.
- The police statement stressed that Netanyahu and Elovitz had a "relationship based on bribes" and that Netanyahu and his associates brazenly meddled — sometimes on a daily basis — in the coverage of Walla's website. It added that Netanyahu and his associates even tried to influence appointments of news editors and reporters in order to promote the Netanyahu family's interests.
- During the investigation, the Israeli police recruited two state witnesses. They include Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu confidant who was appointed as the director general of the telecom ministry and executed Netanyahu's orders regarding Bezeq telecommunications, and Nir Hefetz, the Netanyahu family's spin doctor who was in charge of the meddling with Walla's website.
- The police also recommended that Shaul Elovitz and his wife be indicted for giving bribes to the Netanyahus as well as New York-based Israeli businessman Zeev Rubinstein, a close confidant of the Netanyahu family, for mediation in the bribe deal.
Netanyahu's reaction was a total rejection of the allegations: "The police recommendations about me and my wife don’t surprise anybody — and so is the timing of their publication. Those recommendations were leaked before the investigation even started. The police recommendations have no legal standing and previous police recommendations regarding other politicians were rejected by the attorney general. I am sure that after the authorized officials will examine the issue they will conclude there was nothing."
- Israeli opposition leaders attacked Netanyahu, claiming he is corrupt and calling for his resignation — as ministers in the Likud, Netanyahu's party, the Likud, issued statements attacking the police and defending Netanyahu.
What's next: Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt, who was until few years ago Netanyahu's cabinet secretary, will decide in the next three to four months whether to indict Netanyahu and his wife in the three corruption cases. His decision will influence Netanyahu's forthcoming political decisions — mainly the date for early elections. The decisions on the Netanyahu corruption cases will also affect the calculus of the Trump administration as they attempt to determine a release for their Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.