On Tuesday, the Israeli police make a startling recommendation. They suggested that their own Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, reported The New York Times.
Benjamin Netanyahu has served as the Prime Minister of Israel since 2009. This cast a pall over Netanyahu, and it instantly raised doubts about his ability to stay in office.
The recommendation came at the end of a yearlong graft investigation. The police recommended that the PM face prosecution in two corruption cases: a gifts-for-favors affair known as Case 1000, and a second scandal, dubbed Case 2000.
In the second case, Netanyahu is suspected of back-room dealings with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, to ensure more favorable coverage.
Mr. Netanyahu preemptively addressed the nation on live television before the police released their findings. He made it very 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.
"The police findings 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," explained the New York Times.
However, the police say they have sufficient evidence to indict the prime minister, reported CNN.
According to police reports, Netanyahu received bribes. Those they allege included expensive cigars and enough pink champagne to stock a small cocktail lounge. The generous patrons included Arnon Milchan, the Israeli movie producer.
Additional charges that he gave bribes are more serious.
"A formal bribery charge would be by far the most serious outcome, and the most ominous for his political survival," said the New York Times.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing. He says he won't leave his position, especially given security threats to Israel.
However, if he is indicted, he will possibly have to step down. 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," explained The NYTimes.
His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, announced his resignation in September 2008 after police brought similar charges against him. In that case, they recommended he be charged with bribery, breach of trust, money laundering, and fraudulent receipt of goods.
Olmert was eventually convicted in various cases. He served 19 months of a 27-month prison sentence; he was released last year.
This isn't the first time that police have recommended charges be brought against Netanyahu.
In the late 1990s, during his first term in office, police recommended that he be charged with fraud and breach of trust. Ultimately the case was closed.
Again, in March 2000, when Netanyahu was out of office, the police recommended that he be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in another case. Months later, the attorney general also ordered that case closed.