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Just like America, Zionist Israel has a bent, corrupt leader…


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Author Topic: Just like America, Zionist Israel has a bent, corrupt leader…  (Read 14 times)
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« on: February 11, 2018, 03:57:50 pm »


from The New York Times....

Netanyahu Lashes Out as Israeli Police Wrap Up Graft Inquiries

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused a police chief of “mendacious” insinuations against him.
Critics say he is trying to discredit the investigations.


By ISABEL KERSHNER | Thursday, February 08, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel with his wife, Sara, in Davos, Switzerland, in January. He faces two corruption investigations. — Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel with his wife, Sara, in Davos, Switzerland, in January. He faces two corruption investigations.
 — Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has lashed out at the country's police chief, whom he accused of airing “delusional and mendacious” insinuations against him, just days before the police are expected to publish recommendations regarding potential charges against Mr. Netanyahu in two corruption investigations, possibly including bribery.

“Any fair-minded person will ask themselves how people who say such delusional things about the prime minister can investigate him objectively and make recommendations in his case without bias,” Mr. Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post after midnight on Wednesday.

“A large shadow has been cast this evening over the police investigations and recommendations in the case of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he added.

Critics said Mr. Netanyahu, now in his third consecutive term in office, was trying to discredit the police in order to delegitimize investigations that could undermine his political future.

“Clearly it is unjustified,” Barak Medina, a professor in the law faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said of the attack on the police commissioner, Roni Alsheich. “The prime minister is trying to create a spin and present himself as the victim.”

Like other observers, Mr. Medina drew comparisons to President Trump's criticism of the F.B.I. and Justice Department amid investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.

In a second Facebook post on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Netanyahu denied any personal attack on Mr. Alsheich. “The real question is the purity of the investigation,” he wrote. “The allegations that were aired are grave and should keep any decent person awake at night.”

He made his criticisms after Mr. Alsheich said in a lengthy television interview on Wednesday that private detectives working on behalf of “powerful” people had been gathering information about investigators working on the Netanyahu files, sniffing around their relatives and neighbors and asking questions.

Though he did not directly accuse the prime minister of involvement, Mr. Alsheich did little to push back when his interviewer suggested that the private detectives were acting on behalf of politicians.

“Ultimately,” he added, “we know who these people are. Apparently somebody has to pay them, and therefore this disturbs us greatly.”

Mr. Alsheich has said that after he went public, some months ago, about what he described as “pressures” applied to the investigators by those collecting information on them, the activity stopped. Mr. Alsheich said on Wednesday that these were not “rumors or blah blah blah,” but “facts.”

Mr. Netanyahu excoriated Mr. Alsheich for “repeating the delusional and mendacious insinuation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent private detectives against police officers investigating him.”

In the interview broadcast on the respected magazine program “Uvda” — an Israeli equivalent of “60 Minutes” — Mr. Alsheich also defended the leader of the police anti-corruption unit, Roni Ritman, who has been accused of sexual harassment and recently stepped down.

Mr. Netanyahu also struck back at this part of the conversation, although his name once again went unmentioned.

He wrote of Mr. Alsheich, “It is shocking to discover that he is repeating to journalists the no less ludicrous and false insinuation of Ritman, as if the prime minister was involved in the complaint” against the investigations unit chief. Mr. Netanyahu and his lawyer have called for a swift inquiry into the claims they said Mr. Alsheich had implied.

The extraordinary clash came amid reports in Israel that the police were likely to present conclusions during the next week regarding the evidentiary basis for charges in two graft cases against Mr. Netanyahu.

In the first, known as Case 1000, investigators are looking at whether Mr. Netanyahu offered favors in return for gifts of expensive cigars, pink Champagne and other goods from wealthy friends, including an Israeli Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan.

The second, Case 2000, involves back-room dealings with a local newspaper magnate. Mr. Netanyahu was recorded negotiating for favorable coverage with the publisher of a newspaper that had often criticized him, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for curtailing the circulation of a free competitor, Israel Hayom, financed by the American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

The police have been investigating Mr. Netanyahu on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, according to the Israeli authorities.

Mr. Netanyahu has already tried to prepare the public for the likelihood that the police will recommend charges, suggesting that such a move would be meaningless, since, he said, only about half of police recommendations resulted in formal charges.

A final decision regarding any indictment of Mr. Netanyahu is likely to be months away and would lie with the attorney general, after consultations with the state prosecutor.

Earlier on Wednesday night, Mr. Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page in which he told his supporters not to worry.

“There will be recommendations, there will also be signs saying, ‘Bibi is guilty until proven innocent’, and invalid pressures,” he said. “But I am sure that at the end of the day the authorized legal bodies will come to the same conclusion, to the simple truth: There is nothing.”

Mr. Netanyahu appointed Mr. Alsheich as police commissioner about two years ago, and praised him at the time as a “creative, original and determined commander who is not afraid to take the initiative.”

The relationship has soured since the investigations began. In October, Mr. Netanyahu attacked Mr. Alsheich and blamed the police for what he called a “tsunami” of leaks about the investigations. Mr. Alsheich denied that the police had been the source of the leaks.

David Amsalem, the coalition chairman for Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party, accused the police of attempting a coup.

“When people are being murdered in the streets,” he said on Army Radio, “it is more important than the prime minister having received a cigar.”

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid and a challenger for the post of prime minister, described Mr. Netanyahu's attack on the police chief as “a desperate act of a person under investigation who has decided to exploit his lofty position to threaten the rule of law and cast aspersions on the police, who protect us all.”

Avi Gabbay, leader of the center-left Labor Party, called Mr. Netanyahu's attack “unprecedented” and “illegitimate.”

Asked by the television interviewer, Ilana Dayan, a veteran investigative journalist, if the Israeli public would be surprised by the police findings, Mr. Alsheich replied, “There will be some people who will say, ‘Wait a moment, this is not what we thought’.”

As for the idea that he could end up being remembered as the police chief who brought down a sitting prime minister, Mr. Alsheich said, “I don't like it, but that's my job.”


__________________________________________________________________________

• Isabel Kershner is a correspondent in Jerusalem for The New York Times covering Israeli and Palestinian politics and society, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and diplomatic efforts to resolve it. Since joining The N.Y. Times' Jerusalem bureau in 2007 she has covered Israel's wars with Gaza, the failed efforts at peacemaking and the often fraught, internal divisions and culture wars that shape the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. These include the struggles over the land in the West Bank; the Palestinian political schism; and Israel's religious battles within itself and the Jewish world, including the case of a gutsy octogenarian woman who sued El Al, Israel's national airline, to establish new, non-discriminatory guidelines for seat switching to accommodate ultra-Orthodox male passengers. A fluent Hebrew speaker with working Arabic, she has been reporting on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide since 1990, previously working for The Jerusalem Report magazine. She is the author of Barrier: The Seam of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan 2005). Born and raised in Manchester, England, she graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Oriental Studies.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • As Netanyahu Investigators Close In, Some Ask: How Long Can He Hold On?

 • Benjamin Netanyahu Sought Deal With Hostile Newspaper, TV Report Says

 • Benjamin Netanyahu Questioned in Israel Graft Inquiry


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/world/middleeast/israel-netanyahu-police.html
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2018, 12:45:12 pm »


from The New York Times....

Netanyahu Should Be Charged With Bribery and Fraud, Israeli Police Say

The charges, which would be the first against a sitting prime minister,
raised immediate doubts about his ability to stay in power.


By DAVID M. HALBFINGER and ISABEL KERSHNER | 6:14PM EST — Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. — Photograph: Pool image by Ronen Zvulun.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. — Photograph: Pool image by Ronen Zvulun.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, casting a pall over the future of a tenacious leader who has become almost synonymous with his country. The announcement instantly raised doubts about his ability to stay in office.

Concluding a year-long graft investigation, the police recommended that Mr. Netanyahu face prosecution in two corruption cases: a gifts-for-favors affair known as Case 1000, and a second scandal, dubbed Case 2000, in which Mr. Netanyahu is suspected of back-room dealings with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, to ensure more favorable coverage.


Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, last year. — Photograph: Reuters.
Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, last year. — Photograph: Reuters.

All told, the police accused Mr. Netanyahu of accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts over 10 years.

Mr. Netanyahu, addressing the nation live on television shortly before the police released their findings around 9 p.m., made clear that he would not step down. “I feel a deep obligation to continue to lead Israel in a way that will ensure our future,” he said, before embarking on a 12-minute defense of his conduct.

“You know I do everything with only one thing in mind — the good of the country,” he said. “Not for cigars from a friend, not for media coverage, not for anything. Only for the good of the state. Nothing has made me deviate, or will make me deviate, from this sacred mission.”

The police recommendations must now be examined by state prosecutors and the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit. The final decision about whether to file formal charges lies with Mr. Mandelblit and is subject to a hearing beforehand with Mr. Netanyahu's lawyers. Reaching that threshold alone could easily take months.

According to the police, expensive cigars, jewelry and pink champagne flowed into the prime minister's official Jerusalem residence in quantities sufficient to stock a small cocktail lounge. The generous patrons included Arnon Milchan, the Israeli movie producer, and James Packer, an Australian billionaire.


Arnon Milchan attending CinemaCon in 2016, in Las Vegas. — Photograph: Todd Williamson/Getty Images.
Arnon Milchan attending CinemaCon in 2016, in Las Vegas. — Photograph: Todd Williamson/Getty Images.

But it is the favors Mr. Netanyahu may have given his wealthy friends in return that could herald his downfall. A formal bribery charge would be by far the most serious outcome, and the most ominous for his political survival.

Mr. Netanyahu is serving his third consecutive term since his election in 2009, and his fourth overall since the 1990s. If he were to remain in the post through July 2019, he would set a record for total time in office, surpassing that of the state's founder, David Ben-Gurion.

Mr. Netanyahu has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight on, saying that no police recommendation would prompt his resignation.

His longevity attests to his political agility and to his perfection of a campaigning and governing style in which he casts his political foes and critics as enemies of the broader body politic. Though he has formed previous ruling coalitions with those to his left, his current government is often described as the most right-wing and religious in Israel's history. And he has presided over an increasingly bitter relationship with the Palestinians in the territories Israel has occupied for more than a half-century, whose hopes of soon gaining a state of their own have dwindled as Israeli settlements expand.

But while Mr. Netanyahu has prepared the public for this moment for months, and made strenuous efforts to discredit those investigating him, he has not prepared Israel or his government for the possibility that he may be unable to continue to lead. He has designated no successor, and no single member of his own coalition has emerged as ready to step into his shoes. Meanwhile, a centrist opposition, led by Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, has been gaining strength.

In a twist straight out of a political thriller, a key witness against Mr. Netanyahu, according to Israeli news reports on Tuesday night, turned out to be Mr. Lapid himself, who had been Mr. Netanyahu's finance minister in a previous coalition.

According to a police statement about their recommendations, Mr. Netanyahu promoted the extension of a 10-year tax exemption to expatriate Israelis returning to the country, “a benefit that has great economic value for Milchan,” who has long worked in Hollywood. But the Finance Ministry blocked this legislation, saying it was against the national interest and fiscally unsound.

The Israeli law enforcement authorities have handled the cases with great caution, wary of the possibility of bringing down a prime minister who might then be proved not guilty in court, not least with Israel facing increasing security threats on its northern and southern frontiers.

But Israel's constant state of alert has led some critics to argue all the more that a prime minister so focused on fighting his own legal battles cannot be entrusted with fateful decisions of peace and war.

Opposition politicians pounced on Tuesday night, demanding that Mr. Netanyahu step down, be ousted by his coalition, or at least declare himself “incapacitated,” as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak urged on Twitter, calling the police findings “hair-raising.”

“Most of you are honest people,” Stav Shaffir, of the left-leaning Zionist Union party, wrote on Twitter, addressing Mr. Netanyahu's coalition. “If you have a drop of concern for the future, fulfill your obligation. Free Israel from this madness.”

But some coalition members decried both the investigation and Mr. Lapid's role in it. “In a democracy, a regime is changed in an election and not through the army or police,” the coalition’s chairman, Dudi Amsalem, told Walla News.

Seeking to show that he was undaunted, Mr. Netanyahu announced that he would attend a conference of local authorities in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Netanyahu long ago earned the nickname “the Magician” for his uncanny knack for political endurance, and even his most ardent opponents have been hesitant to write him off.

At what point he might be legally required to step down, short of a final conviction, is likely to be a matter of increasingly heated debate, though public opinion and political pressure could in the end play a decisive role.

Israel's Supreme Court has ruled in the past that government ministers or deputy ministers, once indicted, may not remain in their posts. Whether that principle should also apply to the elected prime minister is an open question.

Mr. Netanyahu would be something of a test case as Israel's first sitting prime minister to be formally charged.

His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, announced his resignation in September 2008, a week after the police recommended he be charged with bribery, breach of trust, money laundering and fraudulent receipt of goods. That case involved an American businessman and a travel-expense scandal from Mr. Olmert's days as mayor of Jerusalem and minister of industry and trade.

Mr. Olmert was eventually convicted in various cases and served 19 months of a 27-month prison sentence. He was released last year.

Pre-empting the police recommendations, Mr. Netanyahu told the public to expect them and did his best to minimize their importance.

“Any fair-minded person will ask themselves how people who say such delusional things about the prime minister can investigate him objectively and make recommendations in his case without bias,” he wrote on a Facebook post last week, accusing the police commissioner, Roni Alsheich, of having an agenda.

In December, Mr. Netanyahu told a gathering of his right-wing Likud Party supporters: “The vast majority of police recommendations end in nothing. Over 60 percent of the police recommendations are thrown in the trash. Over 60 percent of the police recommendations don't get to an indictment.”

Experts have disputed those figures, however, and the prime minister's opponents have begun quoting from an interview he gave in 2008, at the height of Mr. Olmert's legal troubles, to turn the tables on Mr. Netanyahu.

Describing Mr. Olmert as “up to his neck in investigations,” Mr. Netanyahu said of his political rival at the time: “He does not have a public or moral mandate to determine such fateful matters for the state of Israel when there is the fear, and I have to say it is real and not without basis, that he will make decisions based on his personal interest in political survival and not based on the national interest.”

In some ways, though, Mr. Netanyahu has been here before.

During his first term in office, in the late 1990s, the police recommended that he be charged with fraud and breach of trust in a complicated case in which Mr. Netanyahu was suspected of acting to appoint an attorney general who would be sympathetic to a minister under investigation for corruption, in return for that minister's political support. Ultimately, the attorney general closed that case, citing a lack of evidence.

Again, in March 2000, once Mr. Netanyahu was out of office, the police recommended that he be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a case involving his holding on to $100,000 in gifts that were state property and having the state pay for private work on his home. Months later, the attorney general also ordered that case closed.

This time around, the police recruited a state's witness, Ari Harow, Mr. Netanyahu's former chief of staff and once one of his closest confidants.

The police have also been making headway in other criminal investigations in which Mr. Netanyahu has not been named as a subject, but that involve associates from his most inner circle. His wife already faces criminal charges of sneaking $100,000 in catered meals into the prime minister's residence.

But a potentially far more explosive scandal, called Case 3000, involves a $2 billion deal for the purchase of submarines and missile ships from a German supplier. Critics have described that episode as perhaps the biggest corruption case in Israeli history, touching on deep conflicts of interest and national security.

Among those caught up in the shipping investigation are David Shimron, Mr. Netanyahu's personal lawyer and second cousin, and Yitzhak Molcho, Mr. Netanyahu's lifelong friend and close adviser, whom he has sent on his most delicate diplomatic missions since the 1990s. Mr. Molcho and Mr. Shimron are partners in a law firm as well as brothers-in-law.

Another possible case may be brewing over suspicions of the exchange of benefits in return for favorable media coverage between Mr. Netanyahu and a close friend who owns Bezeq, Israel's telecommunications giant.


__________________________________________________________________________

Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Myra Noveck contributed research for this story.

• David M. Halbfinger is the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times. He covers Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the Middle East. Before taking up his post in 2017, Mr. Halbfinger spent four years as metro political editor, deputy metro editor, presidential campaign editor and then deputy national editor, posts in which he oversaw political reporting in the New York area, managed the political reporters covering the 2016 presidential campaign, and helped lead coverage of the United States. As a N.Y. Times reporter from 1997 to 2013, Mr. Halbfinger frequently gravitated toward political and investigative reporting while ranging from Manhattan and the Bronx to posts as bureau chief in Long Island, Trenton and Atlanta, and as a Hollywood correspondent in Los Angeles. He also covered the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry. He was a winner of the Jesse Laventhol Prize for deadline news reporting by a team for his coverage of the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Before coming to The New York Times, Mr. Halbfinger worked at The Boston Globe, New York Newsday and The Philadelphia Business Journal. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Yale. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.

• Isabel Kershner is a correspondent in Jerusalem for The New York Times covering Israeli and Palestinian politics and society, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and diplomatic efforts to resolve it. Since joining The N.Y. Times' Jerusalem bureau in 2007 she has covered Israel's wars with Gaza, the failed efforts at peacemaking and the often fraught, internal divisions and culture wars that shape the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. These include the struggles over the land in the West Bank; the Palestinian political schism; and Israel's religious battles within itself and the Jewish world, including the case of a gutsy octogenarian woman who sued El Al, Israel's national airline, to establish new, non-discriminatory guidelines for seat switching to accommodate ultra-Orthodox male passengers. A fluent Hebrew speaker with working Arabic, she has been reporting on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide since 1990, previously working for The Jerusalem Report magazine. She is the author of Barrier: The Seam of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan 2005). Born and raised in Manchester, England, she graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Oriental Studies.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/world/middleeast/netanyahu-israel-corruption.html
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2018, 12:50:07 pm »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times....

Israeli premier faces new legal issue

Benjamin Netanyahu calls arrests of several close associates ‘a contrived bubble’.

By NOGA TARNOPOLSKY | Monday, February 19, 2018

Israelis protest in Tel Aviv on Friday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after police recommended he be indicted on several corruption charges. — Photograph: Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Israelis protest in Tel Aviv on Friday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after police recommended he be indicted on several corruption charges.
 — Photograph: Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


JERUSALEM — Less than one week after Israeli police recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on several corruption charges, a new legal minefield has opened up beneath his feet.

Seven Israelis were arrested on Sunday in what the police call “Case 4000,” a new investigation in which members of Netanyahu's inner-most circle are suspected of intervening with regulators to help the Bezeq group, an Israeli communications giant then run by a close friend of the prime minister, in exchange for favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on a news portal owned by the company.

Though Netanayhu has not been named as a suspect in the case, numerous Israeli news outlets reported on Sunday that he is expected to be questioned “under caution,” a term used for suspects in criminal cases.

The names of those arrested were not officially announced. But for about an hour before the imposition of a gag order on all details of the investigation, the Haaretz news website reported that they included Nir Hefetz, a close friend of the Netanyahus and the prime minister's former communications director, and Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu associate who served as director general of the Communications Ministry.

Sunday's revelations came only five days after the police announced their recommendation, presented to the attorney general, that Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two unrelated cases in which Netanyahu is alleged to have inappropriately given associates political favors.

From Germany, where he was attending the annual Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu said the arrests of members of his close circle revealed “yet another futile investigation, a contrived bubble that will burst.”

Netanyahu has been in Germany since Thursday, holding meetings with world leaders and acting outwardly as if nothing is amiss.

He addressed the plenum on Sunday. Brandishing the large shard of what he said was an Iranian drone downed on February 10 by the Israeli air force, he said that “Israel will not allow the Iranian regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.”

The drone's incursion into Israeli skies precipitated an exchange of fire that resulted in the loss of an Israeli F-16 that was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. It was the first loss of an Israeli fighter jet since 1982.

Speaking directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in the audience, Netanyahu asked, “Do you recognize it? You should. It's yours. Don't test us.”


In Munich, Netanyahu holds what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace. — Photograph: Lennart Preiss/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
In Munich, Netanyahu holds what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace.
 — Photograph: Lennart Preiss/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


Speaking a few hours later, Zarif ridiculed what he called Netanyahu's “cartoonish circus.”

Such an international venue is familiar ground for the Israeli leader, who has dominated Israeli politics for the last decade.

Tal Schneider, the political analyst for the Israeli financial daily Globes, who accompanied Netanyahu to Munich, said the prime minister “appeared unruffled, projecting that business is as usual, carrying on with scheduled meetings.”

As he departed from Munich, Netanyahu refused to answer questions from Israeli reporters about the criminal investigations that surround him.

The Israeli public, however, appears to be asking the same questions. Three polls published before the weekend show many Israelis believe the police version of events rather than that of Netanyahu, who claims he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

A poll that aired on television channel Reshet said 49% of Hebrew-speaking Israelis believe Netanyahu acted improperly. Twenty-five percent accept Netanyahu's claims of innocence and the remaining 26% do not know what to believe.

A poll by Channel 2 showed that 45% of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign even before the attorney general decides whether to indict, versus 40% who said he should not.

The police recommendations were the product of a year-long investigation and were presented on Tuesday to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the nation's chief prosecutor, who will have to decide whether to indict Netanyahu.

Israel feels increasingly alone as it confronts a difficult dilemma on its northern border: to allow Iran to gain a permanent foothold just across its border with Syria, or to go to war to prevent that from happening.

The White House took more than a full day before reacting to the first incident of Iranian-Israeli military engagement before releasing a statement reaffirming Israel's right to defend itself.

Other strains are becoming evident in the usually strong relationship between Netanyahu and President Trump, including a spat last week in which Netanyahu told political allies that “for some time now I've been talking about [plans to annex areas of the occupied West Bank] with the Americans,” an assertion that White House spokesman Josh Raffel rapidly declared “false.”

“The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president's focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative,” Raffel said in a statement.

On Friday, however, dismissing any concerns relating to Netanyahu's possible indictment, the White House announced it would be hosting Israel's embattled prime minister for meetings with Trump on March 5.

“Netanyahu will keep meeting other leaders, he'll keep on acting as if everything is normal as long as he can,” Meir Sheetrit, a former minister from Netanyahu's political party, Likud, said in an interview. “But we know what direction this is going in: political defeat.”

“This is untenable in the long term,” Sheetrit added. “Netanyahu and the Likud are disconnected from the people, floating along in a world in which their corruption doesn't matter. But it will, and this won't take long to come.”


__________________________________________________________________________

• Noga Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent to the Los Angeles Times. She reports on Israeli and Palestinian topics.

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=ca5c590f-535c-4451-9b66-5cd094ee09a1
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2018, 03:26:42 pm »


from The New York Times....

Netanyahu Inquiry Expands, With New Bribery Allegations

The Israeli prime minister, already accused of accepting nearly $300,000 in bribes,
could now face charges of obstructing justice.


By DAVID M. HALBFINGER | Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Munich this month. The Israeli police have arrested several of his friends and confidants, as well as top executives of the telecommunications company Bezeq, in a widening inquiry into whether he traded favors for favorable news coverage. — Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Munich this month. The Israeli police have arrested several of his friends and confidants, as well as
top executives of the telecommunications company Bezeq, in a widening inquiry into whether he traded favors for favorable news coverage.
 — Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


JERUSALEM — The mushrooming corruption scandal plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took a surprising new turn on Tuesday, with an allegation that one of his closest advisers had sought to bribe a judge into dropping a criminal investigation involving the prime minister's wife.

At the same time, the Israeli police said they had arrested several of Mr. Netanyahu's friends and confidants, as well as top executives of Bezeq, the country's biggest telecommunications company, in a widening inquiry into whether Mr. Netanyahu had traded official favors for favorable news coverage.

The new allegations significantly raise the level of political and legal peril the prime minister faces, suggesting that he or some in his camp could be exposed to charges of obstructing justice.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Netanyahu's situation appeared to become even graver, as Israeli news organizations reported that one of those arrested — a top government official who reported directly to Mr. Netanyahu on the Bezeq affair — was in talks with prosecutors to become a government witness.

Mr. Netanyahu was already embattled, after the police recommended a week ago that he be prosecuted for accepting what they said were bribes worth nearly $300,000 from wealthy businessmen seeking government favors.

With this latest round of allegations he will come under even greater strains, accused by his critics on the left of saber rattling over Iran and pressured by the right to accept its agenda of expanding settlements and annexing the West Bank in return for its support.

Late on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu released a video denying the newest allegations, calling them “hallucinatory” and “baseless” and part of a “campaign of persecution against me and my family that has been going on for years.”

Israel's enemies have begun seizing on Mr. Netanyahu's legal predicament: In Munich on Sunday, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, pointedly alluded to Israel's “domestic corruption” problem in accusing Mr. Netanyahu of “aggression” to distract attention from his political troubles.

Back at home, opponents from the Israeli left and center are demanding that Mr. Netanyahu resign or declare himself “incapacitated”: Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, calling in vain for a no-confidence vote, said on Monday that Mr. Netanyahu should appoint a temporary prime minister from within his own party.

“Israel deserves a full-time prime minister who is not engaged in anything else,” Mr. Lapid said.

Another of Mr. Netanyahu's main challengers, Avi Gabbay of Labor, said that the prime minister had “become a liability for the citizens of Israel.” Mr. Gabbay lamented Mr. Netanyahu's “sickly obsession for ‘what will people say’ and what will be written about him in the media,” adding, “Every day that he stays in office is damage to the country.”

Yet, Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing coalition appears solidly behind him. On Tuesday morning, even as reports were first surfacing about the allegations of an attempt to bribe a judge, the prime minister's coalition allies were loudly denouncing the police commissioner as biased and unprofessional, while accusing him of leaking like a sieve about the various Netanyahu-related inquiries.


Protesters in Tel Aviv last week called for Mr. Netanyahu to resign. — Photograph: Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency.
Protesters in Tel Aviv last week called for Mr. Netanyahu to resign. — Photograph: Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency.

At the center of the two new allegations is a close adviser to the prime minister, Nir Hefetz, a veteran Israeli journalist and political operative who in recent years has bounced back and forth between editing jobs and tending to the public image of the prime minister and his family. In 2015 he was a top strategist for the Likud Party's successful election campaign.

Late that year, according to the police and Israeli news reports, Mr. Hefetz, working as the Netanyahu family's media adviser, passed a message through an intermediary to Israel's commissioner for prosecutorial oversight, Judge Hila Gerstel: Would she drop a corruption case against Mr. Netanyahu's wife, Sara, in exchange for being named attorney general?

The case was not dropped, and Judge Gerstel did not become attorney general. Avichai Mandelblit, who did get the job, announced in September that he intended to indict Sara Netanyahu on fraud charges, accusing her of misusing some $100,000 through her management of the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem. Mr. Hefetz resigned as the Netanyahu family's spokesman in October.

The family's current spokesman, Ofer Golan, denied any attempt by Mr. Hefetz to sway the judge's actions. “Nir Hefetz never offered this hallucinatory proposal to the prime minister and his wife,” Mr. Golan said in a statement. “He was never asked to make such a proposal, and we do not believe that Hefetz even raised such a thing.”

He added sarcastically, “The Netanyahu couple will soon be accused of murdering Arlosoroff,” referring to the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff, who was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1933.

The arrests in connection with Bezeq — a $2.9 billion telecom giant with telephone, television and news divisions — involve official actions taken by Mr. Netanyahu's government that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a near monopoly enterprise that sends monthly bills to most ordinary Israeli voters.

Bezeq's subsidiaries include a cable television company and Walla, a news website. Mr. Netanyahu's aides are suspected of trading favorable treatment by the Communications Ministry, which regulates the company, for favorable coverage by the news site. (The police last week accused Mr. Netanyahu of a similar swap: bargaining for favorable coverage in Yediot Aharonot, a big Israeli daily newspaper, by offering its publisher help in fending off a competitor.)

Mr. Netanyahu personally directed the ministry from 2014 to 2017. During that period, Bezeq's controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, was trying to merge the Yes satellite-television company, of which he owned half, into the larger conglomerate, but at terms that were far more favorable to him than to Bezeq's shareholders.

Mr. Elovitch sought a series of regulatory approvals that were opposed by low-level officials in the Communications Ministry but approved nonetheless.

A crucial letter from a top ministry official in late 2015 was of enormous value both to the company and to Mr. Elovitch, said Gad Perez, a reporter for the Globes newspaper who broke a number of major stories on the case.

A 2015 article in Haaretz, meanwhile, reported that Walla's journalists were pressured by Mr. Elovitch to provide doting coverage of the prime minister and his wife. (Walla has since changed its tune.)

On Sunday, the police arrested Mr. Hefetz; Shlomo Filber, who was director general of the Communications Ministry and reported directly to Mr. Netanyahu; Mr. Elovitch; his wife, Iris; his son, Or, who was a director of both Bezeq and Yes, the cable TV company; Stella Handler, Bezeq's chief executive; and Amikam Shorer, the company's business development manager.

The Bezeq inquiry involves suspicions of obstruction of justice, as well as fraud and breach of trust, the police said on Tuesday in lifting a gag order on the names of those arrested.

Reuven Kuvent, a former investigations chief of the Israeli Securities Authority, said the challenge for law enforcement officers would be to establish an explicit link between the favorable news media coverage and the government's aid to Bezeq and Mr. Elovitch. “Things like that are not a written contract,” Mr. Kuvent said. “So what they're trying now is to get a state's witness: Elovitch, Hefetz or Filber.”

Indeed, Mr. Filber was close to becoming a state witness, Israeli news organizations reported Tuesday night. “They need a connection between the Bezeq story and Walla news,” said Shmuel Sandler, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University. “Maybe he will be it. If so, then that could change everything.”

The allegation about Judge Gerstel is not the first time Mr. Netanyahu or one of his aides has been accused of using the office of attorney general as an inducement.

In 1996, during his first stint as prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu was accused of striking a complicated three-way deal to name Roni Bar-On, an unexpected candidate, as attorney general to obtain the support of Arye Deri, a minister who was on trial for bribery, for a disputed plan to overhaul security arrangements in Hebron.

Mr. Bar-On quickly resigned amid criticism of his appointment. An investigation led to a police recommendation that Mr. Netanyahu be charged with fraud and breach of trust. But Mr. Bar-On's replacement as attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, dropped the case, citing a lack of evidence.


__________________________________________________________________________

Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting to this story.

• David M. Halbfinger is the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times. He covers Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the Middle East. Before taking up his post in 2017, Mr. Halbfinger spent four years as metro political editor, deputy metro editor, presidential campaign editor and then deputy national editor, posts in which he oversaw political reporting in the New York area, managed the political reporters covering the 2016 presidential campaign, and helped lead coverage of the United States. As a N.Y. Times reporter from 1997 to 2013, Mr. Halbfinger frequently gravitated toward political and investigative reporting while ranging from Manhattan and the Bronx to posts as bureau chief in Long Island, Trenton and Atlanta, and as a Hollywood correspondent in Los Angeles. He also covered the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry. He was a winner of the Jesse Laventhol Prize for deadline news reporting by a team for his coverage of the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Before coming to The New York Times, Mr. Halbfinger worked at The Boston Globe, New York Newsday and The Philadelphia Business Journal. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Yale. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • New Netanyahu Corruption Allegations: The Details

 • In Netanyahu's Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him

 • Netanyahu, Linked to $300,000 in Bribes, Says He Won't Quit

 • The Case Against Netanyahu: Highlights From the Police Investigation


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/20/world/middleeast/benjamin-netanyahu-corruption.html
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2018, 03:28:10 pm »


A lot of similarities to America are going on in the facist/terrorist Israeli regime. As with Trump and the Republicans in America, Netanyahu's Likud Party and his coalition allies are looking the other way and making excuses for lies, corruption and obstruction of justice. No wonder Iran feels it can comfortably comment on what a ratbag/scumbag regime Zionist Israel under Netanyahu is.
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