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Israeli Police Call For Netanyahu's Indictment

Feb 14, 2018
Originally published on February 14, 2018 9:16 am
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Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is facing new allegations of bribery and corruption, this time from Israeli police. Netanyahu's relationships with wealthy, well-connected businessmen have been under a microscope. Now Netanyahu is vowing to stay in office, even as police say they have enough evidence to indict him. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: After more than a year of investigations, Israeli police say they have reached conclusions. They say there's evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. There are two main cases. Police say Netanyahu promised an Israeli newspaper publisher that he'd help undercut a competing newspaper, and in exchange, the publisher promised Netanyahu positive press coverage.

Police also say Netanyahu received bribes from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood producer. They say the producer gave Netanyahu and his family a couple hundred-thousand dollars' worth of gifts like cigars, champagne and jewelry and that, in exchange, Netanyahu granted favors to the film producer to help him with business. Police say an Australian businessman, Mariah Carey's ex-fiance, also gave Netanyahu gifts. Netanyahu addressed the Israeli public on live TV last night shortly before police announced their findings.

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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said the police conclusions could not be trusted because the lead investigator allegedly thinks Netanyahu tried to frame him for sexual harassment. He said the police recommendations would not lead to charges.

Netanyahu and his family have weathered years of scandals and accusations and survived. His Likud party is rallying around him. Now, the question is whether the Israeli public will demand Netanyahu step down. Shlomo (ph) Sandler is an expert in Israeli politics at Bar-Ilan University.

SHMUEL SANDLER: I presume that the hardcore of Likud will continue supporting him. The hardcore of the left will, of course, attack him. But the question will be, what is going to be in the middle, the center? How will the public accept it? And, in this, we have to wait.

ESTRIN: This morning, Netanyahu defended himself again, saying the police findings were like Swiss cheese with many holes. And he said his coalition will stay intact. So far, that appears to be the case. The government just passed a new budget last night through the end of next year, giving his ruling coalition stability. And his key coalition partners say they'll stick by Netanyahu unless prosecutors issue an indictment. It will likely take prosecutors many months or a year before they decide whether to charge him. At the moment, Netanyahu is not going anywhere.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF BERRY WEIGHT'S "YETI'S LAMENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.