Police official: Recommendations in PM corruption probes likely within 3 weeks

Source tells Hadashot that investigations are in final stages, with no plans for a further round of questioning for Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, November 26, 2017. (AFP/GALI TIBBON)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, November 26, 2017. (AFP/GALI TIBBON)

Police are likely to submit their recommendations in the two corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within three weeks, Hadashot TV news reported Thursday, citing a police source.

The source said that barring any unexpected developments, the two probes were nearing completion and their results would be handed over to prosecutors soon. He added that police did not intend to further question Netanyahu, who has held seven sessions with investigators.

Netanyahu himself appears to expect police to recommend charges against him, and on Tuesday struck a preliminary blow against law enforcement officials. In an address to a rally of Likud party members, the premier dismissed the upcoming police recommendations as meaningless.

“If there will be recommendations [to indict] — so what?” Netanyahu said. “Here’s a fact I doubt the public knows: The vast majority of police recommendations end with nothing. More than 60 percent of police recommendations [to indict] are thrown out” — that is, do not result in the filing of an indictment by state prosecutors.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a rally with his supporters, in Tel Aviv, on December 19, 2017. (Flash90)

Netanyahu attacked law enforcement, alluding to unfair treatment at the hands of police.

“As early as January 2017, almost a year ago, the news item was miraculously leaked: The police will recommend an indictment against Netanyahu. They knew a year ago, even before the investigation,” he said. “Why did it take a year? A waste of time and public funds.”

On Wednesday, top law enforcement officials told Hadashot that Netanyahu was using misleading figures, as over 80% of public service corruption cases where police recommend indictments result in charges being pressed.

One top police official, who was not named by Hadashot, reportedly told the television station’s longtime crime reporter Moshe Nussbaum on Wednesday: “We will say our piece in the investigation report and the public recommendations. Maybe then the public will understand why the prime minister sounded so angry and anxious yesterday.”

Netanyahu is a suspect in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000. In the first, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Tuesday’s speech also saw Netanyahu slam the media and claim Tel Aviv anti-corruption protests were funded by the New Israel Fund.

The prime minister’s speech drew accusations from the opposition that the he was aiming to discredit Israel’s law enforcement authorities. Some accused Netanyahu of seeking to hurt public trust in the police in order to protect his political position.

A key partner in Netanyahu’s coalition has since offered explicit backing to the police. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu party, said “We in the government, in the Finance Ministry, in all the [government] institutions, support the police and the rule of law,” Kahlon said. “Keep doing the important work that you’re doing.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan of Likud, who oversees the police, has also distanced himself from Netanyahu’s statements.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon leads a Kulanu faction meeting in the Knesset on October 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I am not satisfied with all of his statements, and I am not satisfied with the style or the interpretation that can emerge from these statements,” Erdan said. “I think the police are doing their job and I do not question their handling” of the investigations.

But many of the prime minister’s government partners backed his approach, and downplayed the significance of the recommendations.

Netanyahu’s allies in the Knesset, most notably Likud MK David Amsalem and outgoing coalition whip MK David Bitan — who stepped down from the powerful position Wednesday amid his own corruption investigation — have proposed legislation that would bar police officers investigating public figures from publicizing their recommendations for indictments.

Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

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