Israeli Police Recommend Indicting Netanyahu In 3rd Corruption Allegations This Year This time, Israel's prime minister is being investigated for an alleged "bribery relationship" with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of telecommunications company Bezeq.
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Israeli Police Recommend Indicting Netanyahu In 3rd Corruption Allegations This Year

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Israeli Police Recommend Indicting Netanyahu In 3rd Corruption Allegations This Year

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today in Brussels. They're discussing developments in the Middle East - this as Netanyahu battles a new set of corruption allegations back home. Police are recommending he be indicted on bribery charges. That does not mean he will be charged. That's a decision for Israel's attorney general. But this is the third corruption case Netanyahu has faced this year. And it is considered the most serious. Let's bring in NPR's Daniel Estrin. He is in Jerusalem. Hey, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: What is this latest set of corruption allegations?

ESTRIN: They concern the relationship Netanyahu had with an Israeli businessman. He's the chief shareholder of a telecom company. And police say that Netanyahu pushed through regulation apparently concerning a company merger that meant millions of dollars for this businessman. This businessman's company owns an online news site. And police say that in exchange for the regulatory favors Netanyahu gave him, Netanyahu got to dictate what was said about him on this new site. He got favorable coverage. He got articles critical of him taken down.

Now, this is all far from over. As you say, it's up to the attorney general to decide whether to indict Netanyahu. And the attorney general, by the way, was appointed by Netanyahu himself. So it could take months before a decision is announced. And Netanyahu is denying wrongdoing here. He's calling it a police witch hunt.

KELLY: A witch hunt, interesting - coincidence that that is the exact same language President Trump often deploys against his adversaries?

ESTRIN: Netanyahu has also used the term fake news many times. And he's also railed against the media for publishing details of these investigations.

KELLY: All right, so a lot of parallels there - but we mentioned this is the third corruption case Netanyahu has faced just this year. Remind us of the other allegations outstanding.

ESTRIN: Right. There are two other cases. One of them concerns allegations that Netanyahu accepted expensive gifts - cigars, champagne, jewelry - from wealthy businessmen. And in another case, police allege that Netanyahu offered a deal to a newspaper publisher that he would advance legislation to help this publisher with business in exchange for positive press coverage.

KELLY: What might all this mean for Netanyahu's future? How vulnerable is he politically?

ESTRIN: He could survive this, Mary Louise. He's been in power for almost 10 years. Netanyahu is on track to being Israel's longest-serving prime minister ever. And he's said he's not going to resign. He would stand trial if he faces an indictment. He's popular in the polls here. His political partners are still staying by his side. Elections are going to be held next year. And some analysts think that Netanyahu may call early elections. He's expected to win now. And he may say, well, if I win, then this could dissuade the attorney general from indicting me because...

KELLY: Oh, OK, because he would have a fresh mandate from voters and from the public that might help him fend off some of these legal charges.

ESTRIN: Exactly. And Trump now is supposed to reveal his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan soon. That's what he's said. And he may wait now until these new elections happen or until all this uncertainty about Netanyahu's political future clears up.

KELLY: NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting on a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty there in Jerusalem. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: Thank you.

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