Saturday 21 July 2018

Netanyahu must stand trial over bribery claims, say Israeli police

Under-fire Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: REUTERS/Gali Tibbon
Under-fire Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: REUTERS/Gali Tibbon

Raf Sanchez

Israeli police have recommended charging Benjamin Netanyahu with accepting bribes worth one million shekels (€225,000), dealing a potentially serious political blow to the long-serving Israeli prime minister.

After more than a year of investigating, Israel's police said there was enough evidence to prosecute Mr Netanyahu on allegations he accepted lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen and tried to negotiate a corrupt deal with a newspaper publisher.

Police also recommended charging Mr Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust. The final decision on whether or not to bring charges against the prime minister lies with Avichai Mandelblit, the Israeli attorney general.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said in a defiant address last night he would not resign over the "baseless" police recommendations.

"Nothing will divert me from my commitment to the good of the nation," Mr Netanyahu said. "I have not known a day in office without vicious allegations against me and my family."

Detectives spent more than a year investigating two separate cases into Mr Netanyahu, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. The first inquiry focused on claims that Mr Netanyahu and his family illegally accepted extravagant gifts like Champagne and cigars from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood producer, and James Packer, an Australian millionaire.

In return, he allegedly helped pass legislation that would benefit Mr Milchan's businesses and tried to help him get a visa to the US. Case 2000 involves allegations that Mr Netanyahu offered a corrupt deal to the publisher of 'Yedioth Ahronoth', one of Israel's largest newspapers.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian teenager charged after a viral video showed her hitting two Israeli soldiers in a case that has gained global attention went on trial in military court in closed-door proceedings.

The judge in the trial ordered journalists to be removed from the court at the Ofer military prison, ruling that open proceedings would not be in the interest of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who is being tried as a minor.

Only family members were allowed to remain, with diplomats also asked to leave.

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