Police are likely to recommend indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over gifts he received from billionaire Israeli film producer Arnon Milchan, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday.
The probe into Netanyahu’s dealings with Milchan — known as Case 1000 — is the most advanced of the multiple investigations into the prime minister, and will likely be concluded in the coming weeks, according to the report.
Police are expecting to recommend an indictment against the premier to state prosecutors, Channel 10 said.
Police are also considering investigating Netanyahu as a criminal suspect in the so-called submarine affair, Channel 10 reported.
In that probe, Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of swaying multi-billion shekel deals in favor of German shipbuilders ThyssenKrupp, which he represented in Israel.
Histadrut Labor Federation chief Avi Nissenkorn was questioned Wednesday over a meeting he had with Shimron, the report said. The meeting allegedly dealt with an attempt to secure an Israeli shipyard in which to dock new German submarines when they arrived in Israel.
Another probe against the prime minister known as Case 2000 — which pertains to Netanyahu’s conversations with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes in which the pair allegedly negotiated an illicit quid pro quo deal — was still far from completion, according to Channel 10. Several US businessmen and publishers have yet to give testimony, including billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson.
Israel Radio reported earlier in the day that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is leaning towards a charge of breach of trust, but not bribery, in Case 1000.
After several weeks during which Netanyahu, his wife Sara and son Yair had been questioned by police on multiple occasions, there has so far not been any conclusive evidence to show that the gifts were intended as bribes, the radio station said.
Leaked reports of the police investigation have indicated that Milchan spent some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($100,000-150,000) on champagne and cigars for the Netanyahus over the best part of a decade. The prime minister and his wife have reportedly told police that the sums involved were far lower, and that the gifts were unremarkable as the Milchans are their best friends. As for gifts from a second businessman named in the case, Australian James Packer, those were of even more negligible value, the Netanyahus reportedly told police.
During questioning, Milchan reportedly told police the Netanyahus demanded the champagne and cigars that he allegedly supplied to them, and that they were not, as they have claimed, merely gifts given out of generosity and friendship.
Put on the spot by opposition MKs on Wednesday, Netanyahu lambasted the two criminal investigations against him, contending that he has done nothing wrong and would not step down should the allegations lead to further legal action.
Slamming the lawmakers in a stormy Knesset Q&A session punctuated by shouts and heckling, Netanyahu said the investigations had been accompanied by a “celebration of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.”
Netanyahu noted that he was “not the first” political leader to have meetings with media publishers, and not the first “to have wealthy friends.”
Netanyahu declined a number of questions on whether he will resign if indicted in one of the two criminal investigations currently opened against him, and on whether gifts he received from businessman Milchan or his relationship with lawyer Shimron constitute a conflict of interest.
Instead, once the formal questioning was finished, he launched into a diatribe against the allegations, the MKs who called him to resign, and the media.
He was facing “an unprecedented witch-hunt,” he said, aimed “simply to replace me through non-democratic means,” he said.
“Well, I will tell you this,” Netanyahu concluded emphatically. “There was no crime and we don’t replace a prime minster through non-democratic means… I will continue to lead the state of Israel for many years, on behalf of the citizens of Israel, the state of Israel and the Jewish people, so you better get used to it.”