Netanyahu Might Be in Real Trouble

Indictments loom as a former confidant turns against him
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2017 9:21 AM CDT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.   (Gali Tibbon, Pool via AP)

(Newser) – Benjamin Netanyahu has been Israel's prime minister since 2009, the longest run since that of Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion. That streak, however, might be in jeopardy thanks to a convoluted chain of events that involves two separate corruption investigations, a former confidant who has turned against him, the producer of Pretty Woman, and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Indictments are expected against the prime minister, though this could continue to play out for months. Here's a look at what's going on:

  • Defection: Netanyahu got bad news last week with the news that former chief of staff Ari Harow, in trouble over his own private business dealings, agreed to cooperate with investigators against the prime minister, reports the New York Times. Police said for the first time that Netanyahu is accused of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

  • The cases: Netanyahu is accused of accepting lavish gifts in return for favors and of trying to arrange better coverage in a critical newspaper by reining in a competing, pro-Netanyahu newspaper run by Adelson, per NPR in this audio report.
  • Pretty Woman connection: Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who has Pretty Woman and Fight Club among his credits, reportedly gave Netanyahu thousands of dollars' worth of cigars and champagne. In exchange, Israeli media says the prime minister called up then Secretary of State John Kerry to help Milchan secure a US visa, reports the Washington Post.
  • Adelson: A court ruled Monday that Netanyahu must turn over call logs between him and Adelson, who publishes the supportive Israel Today newspaper, reports Haaretz. A journalist behind the suit says Netanyahu is the "de facto" editor of the paper. The prime minister is accused of agreeing to curtail circulation if a competing newspaper backed off its criticism of him.
  • Defiant: "I have nothing to fear," said Netanyahu, per the Jerusalem Post. "I don't think I have a problem." On Facebook, he posted that his opponents aimed to topple him, adding, "It won't happen." Indictments would not require him to step down as prime minister.
  • His wife: Sara Netanyahu might be indicted, too, reports Haaretz. Investigators suspect she used government funds for personal expenses at the Netanyahu households.
(Read more Benjamin Netanyahu stories.)

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