Israeli police call to indict PM Bibi Netanyahu and his wife on bribery charges, citing new evidence

Israeli authorities want to indict longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — one of the most popular leaders in the nation state’s 70-year history — on allegations of bribery and fraud.

“Authorities allege Netanyahu awarded regulatory favors to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more positive coverage of him and his wife on a news website, Walla, owned by the company,” Reuters reported.

According to a statement issued by Israeli authorities Sunday, they now have the evidence to justify an indictment against both the prime minister and his wife, Sara Netanyahu.

The problem is that Israeli authorities have been singing the same tune for almost a year. At the start of 2018 they recommended Netanyahu be indicted for bribery and breach of trust. And just like now, at the time they claimed they had enough evidence to warrant an indictment.

They specifically claimed they had evidence to prove that, one, the prime minister paid Bezeq Telecom Israel for more positive coverage, and two, he allegedly accepted over $100,000 in gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and other wealthy associates.

Yet with nearly a year having passed, the prime minister still hasn’t been indicted. Nor does it look like he will be anytime soon, even if the allegations turn out to be true.

“It is now up to Israel’s attorney-general, Avichai Mandelblit, to decide whether to press charges against Netanyahu in the three cases. That decision could take months,” Reuters noted.

The prime minister has for his part denied the allegations and made it clear he has no intention of stepping down from his post. Nor has he faced any public pressure to step down.

The latest polls from Israel have shown Netanyahu and his party continuing to surge in popularity, with the likelihood of them securing easy wins in next year’s election increasing by the day.

“2019 is an election year and Bibi intends to run, indictment or not. If you believe the 10 separate opinion polls conducted this month, he and his center-right coalition will very likely win and continue to govern,” Bloomberg noted last month.

The publisher added that this optimism for the prime minister and his Likud stem from the Trump-equivalent economic success he’s spurred across all of Israel by combining laissez-faire policies with innovative new technologies.

“Israel is an innovation nation,” he said during an interview at the Economic Club of Washington last spring. “It’s a combination of free markets and incredible technology. Technology without free markets doesn’t take you very far.”

Listen:

During the interview Netanyahu briefly also addressed the ongoing investigations against him when the host asked, “What’s the pleasure of being prime minister, though?”

“Oh, investigations!” he replied in jest.

This good-humored attitude has also helped ingratiate him to the Israeli public. It’s an attitude that his U.S. counterpart, President Donald Trump, may want to consider adopting.

This isn’t to say that the prime minister hasn’t displayed a tough attitude against the allegations, but rather that he’s not allowed them to affect his mood and behavior.

“The police recommendations regarding me and my wife don’t surprise anyone. These recommendations were decided upon and leaked even before the investigation began,” he said in a simple, unemotional statement released in response to the latest announcement.

But not everybody in Israel is fond of the prime minister’s nonchalant attitude.

“The most serious bribery case yet leaves no room for doubt: a prime minister who is accused of the most serious offense for a public servant in the Israeli rule book cannot keep serving one minute longer,” Tamar Zandberg, the head of the opposition party Meretz party, said.

“The prime minister has no moral mandate to keep his seat and must resign today. Israel must go to elections,” he added, echoing the same sort of rhetoric often heard by Trump’s critics.

The users of social media believe the investigations against Netanyahu are no different than the investigations against Trump, in that they’re just partisan witch hunts.

Look:

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Vivek Saxena

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