Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested Saturday that police would recommend indicting him on corruption charges only because they lack the courage to admit the investigation has produced no tangible results.
In a statement, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office said: “After months of police leaks saying they’ll recommend an indictment, does anyone imagine they’ll have the courage to get off their high horse and admit that there’s nothing?”
The official was responding to comments earlier in the day by Zionist Union MK Mickey Rosenthal, who said he had inside knowledge that “police have decided to definitely recommend indicting the prime minister.”
Rosenthal, speaking at a cultural event in Modi’in, noted that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit would still need to decide whether to accept the police recommendation.
He said investigators were currently busy complementing their initial findings with additional work, but that police “have decided to definitely recommend an indictment on reception of forbidden benefits and breach of trust.”
Police are probing expensive gifts allegedly given to Netanyahu and his family by wealthy businessmen including US-Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, and whether any actions subsequently taken on their behalf amount to graft or conflicts of interest. The gifts were reportedly valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and included expensive cigars, champagne, meals and hotel rooms.
Rosenthal also took a shot at Likud lawmakers, saying “the last ten people in (Likud’s Knesset faction) share an IQ.”
MKs at the bottom of Likud’s roster include controversial figures such as Oren Hazan, Coalition chairman David Bitan and Miki Zohar.
Bitan responded by saying Rosenthal’s comments “smell of racism and an anti-Mizrahi attitude because it’s well known that Likud’s lower roster is mostly Mizrahi” Jews.
On Thursday a senior prosecutor also indicated that Netanyahu could be heading toward an indictment. Speaking at a legal conference, Liat Ben-Ari appeared to dismiss Netanyahu’s main defense in the graft probe dubbed “Case 1000,” in which police are investigating the expensive gifts allegedly given to Netanyahu and his family. The Netanyahus have long said these were just normal gifts friends give each other.
But Ben-Ari, of the Tel Aviv District Prosecutor’s finance and tax department, who was recently appointed to head the legal team overseeing the probe, said this was difficult to accept.
“Friendship is a claim that comes up a lot in cases and it is a real defense, but it can’t explain every gift,” Ben-Ari said.
“When you are talking about hundreds of thousands of shekels that are given to a public servant, it’s difficult to accept that it is solely a gift of friendship. No one demands hundreds of thousands of shekels from friends,” she said.
A second investigation, dubbed “Case 2000,” concerns the prime minister’s recorded discussions with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Arnon Mozes about a quid pro quo deal to restrict the activities of a rival newspaper through legislation. No such deal was ever implemented.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied that the gifts and discussions under investigation were illegal.