Police on Thursday told the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion that they plan to recommend to the State Prosecution to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The indictments will represent the culmination of two years of investigations of the PM, his wife and their close circle of friends and advisors.
Netanyahu’s response to date has been that “the hunt to replace the legitimate government is in full swing, but it is doomed to failure for a simple reason: there will be nothing, because there was nothing.”
The hunters, though, as Ma’ariv listed them Friday morning, are far from being leftwingers driven by their passion to replace a successful rightwing Prime Minister. They are Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, a Netanyahu appointment; Head of the Police Dept. of Police Investigations and Intelligence Division Manny Yitzhaki, a professional; Lahav 433 Fraud Investigation Unit Commander Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, another professional; Head of Investigations and Intelligence Division, and Squad commander, Brigadier General Koresh Barnor, another consummate professional; State Attorney Shai Nitzan, appointed in 2013, while Netanyahu was in office; and, finally, the man designated to give the go-ahead to indicting the PM, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a celebrated Netanyahu appointment.
The key component which threatens to turn the ongoing investigation into a full-blown indictment is the expectation that Ari Harow, a Los Angeles-born Israeli who served as Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff – and parted on good terms – is turning state’s witness. He served the PM during the crucial periods when the bulk of the cases against him took place; he knows where all the skeletons are hanging.
Harow has been the target of an investigation of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud and money laundering, much of it in connection with the allegedly fictitious sale of his consulting firm, 3H Global, when he was appointed Chief of Staff for the PM.
It was during Harow’s investigation that police discovered on his cell phone the recordings of Netanyahu’s conversations with Yedioth Aharonoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes, where the PM promised Mozes to get his patron, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to kill the weekend edition of the freebee Israel Hayom in return for more supportive coverage of the PM by Yedioth.
Harow’s service also coincided with Netanyahu’s friendship with Israeli-American tycoon Arnon Milchan, which involved the Netanyahus receiving large and largely illegal gifts from Milchan.
Should Police be able to flip Harow – which Israeli media appear convinced they will, as of Friday morning – this could mark the beginning of the end for Prime Minister Netanyahu. His predecessor Ehud Olmert stepped down in 2008 because, as he put it, he “was forced to defend [himself] from ceaseless attacks by the self-appointed soldiers of justice, who sought to oust [him] from [his] position.”
Israeli law, however, does not require the Prime Minister to resign following an indictment. Government ministers convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude are dismissed immediately, but the law excludes the Prime Minister, leaving the decision as to whether or not to dismiss him to the discretion of the Knesset. Only following a conviction is the PM obligated to resign.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said this week that Netanyahu should not have to resign if an indictment is filed against him. Shaked said it depended on the details of the indictment, adding that only far-reaching accusations would justify the dismantling of the government.