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Another Shoe Drops in the Netanyahu Corruption Investigations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is no stranger to controversy and scandal. As early as 1993, when Netanyahu first ran for the spot of Likud party leader, he claimed that he was being “blackmailed” when a video surfaced showing him in compromising positions with a different woman than the one he was married to.

When his first premiership was brought to an abrupt end by Ehud Barak in 1999, Israeli newspapers proclaimed in banner headlines allegations that Netanyahu and has wife had kept over $100,000 in state gifts, the sort of financial scandal which, in Israel, is enough to end any political career. He went into private business.

In 2003, he staged a comeback, and served for two years as finance minister, only to have it surface after the 2009 victory that heralded his current terms as prime minister that he and his family had accepted expensive vacations and dinners at the expense of well-heeled businessmen; the obvious implication was that there would be some quid for that quo. Add to these the sordid “Bottlegate” affair in which his penny-pinching wife kept the deposits from drinks bottles used for official affairs at the prime minister’s residence, as well as allegations of misuse of state funds to remodel his private residency in the posh community of Caesarea, and it may be said that he has had quite a colorful career.

Hence, the current allegations about corruption and malfeasance may seem like more of the same; certainly the prime minister himself is trying to shrug them off that way.

But they are not. The Israeli police have announced that Netanyahu will probably be indicted for “bribery, fraud, and breach of trust"; the likelihood is made much more serious by a plea-bargaining deal with Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, American-born Israeli businessman Ari Harow, to turn state’s witness in the proceedings. The likely consequences are sufficiently serious that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, of Likud’s staunchest coalition partner, the nationalist Bayit Yehudi party, has felt compelled to grant an interview on Saturday night television cautioning that indictment is not conviction, and that technically Netanyahu would not have to resign until after conviction and the appeals process, “and we are not there”

While no-one knows what information Harow has to warrant his being granted clemency to turn state’s witness, the general tenor of the current investigations has been known for a long time. There are basically three “live,” concurrent investigations:

The first, officially known as Case 1000, is again about illegally accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in expensive gifts, ranging from fine wines and liqueurs to jewelry, airliner tickets, and expensive hotel stays for Netanyahu and members of his family from influential businessmen, many of them foreign citizens with business interests before the government. It is believed that Harow will provide additional names of such donors and details of some of the gifts heretofore not known.