Israeli police recommend indictment of Netanyahu on corruption charges
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted in two corruption cases, police recommended Tuesday, ramping up pressure on the leader who has served more than a decade in office.
After months of investigations, Israeli police said they believe there is sufficient evidence against the prime minister to indict him on suspicion of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.
They handed over their recommendations to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will now examine the evidence and decide whether to move forward with legal proceedings, a process that could take months.
Netanyahu maintained his innocence in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night and gave no indication that he would resign.
"I'm sure that the truth will come to light, and I'm sure that also in the next elections, I will once again win your loyalty, with the grace of God," he said.
The first case, referred to as Case 1000, details gifts of cigars and jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of shekels that the prime minister and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving from billionaire benefactors such as Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and James Packer, an Australian billionaire who was briefly engaged to American singer Mariah Carey.
The other case, 2000, involves deals made between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, publisher of popular Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. According to information leaked to the Israeli press, the deal apparently would have allowed the prime minister to receive more favorable coverage from the newspaper if he agreed to weaken the status of rival daily newspaper Israel Hayom, owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
The police announcement will increase pressure on Netanyahu to resign, though he has given no indication that he plans to do so, adopting a combative tone as the investigations have circled closer to him.
He has repeatedly attacked the police, accusing them of being politically motivated and attempting to stage a coup.
That tension has ramped up over the past week amid leaks that police were preparing to recommend an indictment.
Netanyahu released a Facebook video telling his supporters not to worry and stating his often-repeated mantra: "There is nothing." It will be up to the attorney general to decide whether to indict him, he said, pointing out that many police recommendations for indictments go nowhere.
He later released a long Facebook message. "The real question is the integrity of the investigation, and the only way to get to the bottom of it is through an objective, unbiased and quick investigation," he said.
Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was forced to resign in 2009 after being plagued by corruption allegations during his term. He was indicted shortly after his resignation and was convicted in 2014.
As allegations against Netanyahu have built, so have weekly demonstrations calling on him to resign, though they have lacked scale, drawing only a few thousand participants.
Authors information: Loveday Morris is our Jerusalem bureau chief. Ruth Eglash is a correspondent for The Washington Post based in Jerusalem.