Earlier this week, Israeli police recommended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on charges that he accepted bribes and breached the public trust in two incidents.
But according to experts on Israeli politics — and those familiar with Bibi's longstanding feud with the Israeli police chief heading the investigation — the charges just don't seem to add up.
Israeli politics expert Caroline Glick writes that while the charges have cast a pall over Netanyahu's hold on power in Israel they cast deeper questions "about the purity of the police service’s intentions and its trustworthiness." In an extensive essay that delves deep into nearly two decades of political conflict, Glick lays out why the Israeli police can't be trusted to be neutral in the case of Netanyahu.
In the first investigation, dubbed "Investigation 1000," Netanyahu is reportedly under fire for receiving bribes, in the form of cigars, champagne, and other gifts, from a longtime associate and movie producer, Arnon Milchen.
In exchange for those gifts, the police allege that Netanyahu supported extending a law passed in 2008, when Netanyahu was the head of the parliamentary opposition, that gave returning Israeli expatriates a ten year exemption on income earned abroad and a ten year exemption for reporting income earned abroad.
The police allege that Netanyahu pressured his finance minister, Yair Lapid, to approve the extension, and Lapid is willing to testify about the bribery. There's only one problem, Glick points out: Lapid is Netanyahu's political rival, and if Netanyahu steps down — and his party loses the next election — control goes immediately to Lapid.
The other two laws Milchen reportedly pressed Netanyahu on never passed — so as Glick points out, if Netanyahu was taking bribes, he was woefully unsuccessful at bringing the ultimate scheme to fruition.
In the second investigation, Investigation 2000, Netanyahu is accused of accepting a bribe from Arnon Mozes, the head of a paper in Israel, Yediot Ahronot, that is routinely critical of Netanyahu's government. In a conversation Netanyahu himself recorded, police say he can be heard cooking up a complicated scenario with Mozes, where Netanyahu promises Mozes will have the largest circulation of any paper in Israel — and significant government advertising — if only Mozes will tone down his criticism of Netanyahu's government.
But the pair, in this case again, are also bitter rivals, and, again, the so-called "arrangement" didn't work out in Mozes's favor. In fact, Glick writes:
In the event, nothing came of the conversation. Indeed, in late 2014, against Netanyahu’s expressed wishes, then-justice minister Tzipi Livni put forward a controversial media bill, which was based on a legal opinion written by Yediot Ahronot‘s legal advisor. The bill, which was dubbed the “Israel Hayom law,” would have forced the shutdown of the paper by barring its owners from not charging money for it.
Netanyahu was so opposed to this law — which would have helped Mozes by nearly eliminating his main competition to be the largest-circulation newspaper in Israel — that he dissolved his government and forced national elections to be rid of it.
It's hard to believe Netanyahu was so deeply influenced by his political rival that he'd run a full, national political campaign to keep things exactly as they are.
Glick also points out that the police, who aren't fans of Netanyahu's government, have been after Netanyahu for years, and have — coincidentally — investigated many of Netanyahu's political allies and friends across the globe, searching for indications of bad behavior for the last 22 years. Of that intense investigation, two charges developed — and both those charges require that Netanyahu conspired actively with his political rivals for plans that never came to fruition.
Prosecutors are expected to review the evidence and make their decision soon.