Archive for February 2019

Netanyahu to stand trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending hearing 

February 28, 2019

Source: Netanyahu to stand trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending hearing | The Times of Israel

AG’s decision is legal bombshell ahead of April 9 elections, marks first time in Israel’s history that serving PM is told he faces criminal charges; premier to speak at 8 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 5, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 5, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In a decision that drastically shakes up Israeli politics less than six weeks before general elections, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including bribery in the far-reaching Bezeq corruption probe, pending a hearing.

The decision marks the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister has been told he faces criminal charges, and casts a heavy shadow over Netanyahu’s re-election campaign.

Netanyahu will be charged with fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, unless he can persuade Mandelblit to reconsider in the course of the hearing process.

The attorney general detailed the allegations in a 57-page document that was released on Thursday evening.

Mandelblit, in his decision, wrote that according to suspicions the prime minister “damaged the image of the public service and public trust in it” and is suspected of abusing his position and status, and of “knowingly taking a bribe as a public servant in exchange for actions related to your position.”

“This is hugely significant — for the prime minister and for all of us,” said Suzie Navot, a professor of constitutional and parliamentary law. “This was an investigation conducted with caution, with restraint — some would say too much restraint, over too long. The evidence was checked and re-checked.” The attorney general knew full well how dramatic would be the political fallout, she said. “And yet the decision was taken to indict, in all three cases.”

Despite reported recommendations from the state attorney and police that the prime minister stand trial for bribery in all of the cases, Mandelblit opted for the lesser charge of fraud and breach of trust in two of the affairs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Responding to the decision, Netanyahu’s Likud party continued to insist that “there is nothing” to the cases against the premier. It accused “the media and the left” of pressuring the attorney general into the decision. “No one is surprised by the announcement,” the party said.

It further claimed that “the witch hunt against the prime minister began with an attempt to hit him with four bribery cases. Even before the hearing, three of those have collapsed.”

Netanyahu was set to give a statement to the media on the decision at 8 p.m.

The prime minister is currently seeking reelection in the April 9 elections against an opposition invigorated by the entry into politics of ex-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.

Thursday’s announcement of the intention to indict the prime minister — who long argued that the decision should be postponed until after the vote so that it would not affect public opinion — places Netanyahu’s legal situation front and center in the campaign.

The decision to press charges, pending a hearing, in the criminal investigations against Netanyahu could have a game-changing impact on the elections, a Times of Israel poll published earlier Thursday showed. The ruling Likud party could lose both a significant chunk of support, as well as its ability to form a coalition after the vote, the survey, published overnight Wednesday-Thursday, indicated.

Netanyahu can request a hearing to contest the planned indictment, in a process that could take up to a year, during which time he is not legally obliged to step down. Israeli law only requires that a prime minister step down if convicted, but experts have suggested that Netanyahu could have a “problem” if he seeks to stay in office after a formal indictment is filed at the completion of a hearing process. Under law and High Court of Justice precedent, ministers other than the prime minister are required to step down in such a situation. There is no clear legal rule regarding the prime minister.

Thursday’s announcement came after a last-ditch attempt to prevent Mandelblit from announcing the charges. Netanyahu’s Likud party filed a petition with the High Court of Justice Thursday morning, seeking to stop the attorney general from publishing his decision, but the court rejected the plea on Thursday afternoon.

In Case 1000, involving accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in exchange for favors, Mandelblit said he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust — the latter being a somewhat murkily defined offense relating to an official violating the trust the public has placed in him. Milchan is not to be charged.

In Case 2000, involving accusations Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth, Mandelblit will seek to also charge the premier with fraud and breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery. The case is said to have been a contentious one in Mandelblit’s office, with many prosecution officials reportedly arguing that Netanyahu should be charged with bribery, while Mandelblit considered not charging the prime minister at all.

In Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, Netanyahu is accused of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site. In that case Mandelblit announced he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust, and both Netanyahu and Elovitch with bribery.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Mandelblit’s decision broke with the conclusions of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan in several instances, by opting to press lesser charges against some of the suspects, or to drop charges all together.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all three cases, and has alleged that the investigations against him are a “witch hunt” involving the left, the media and the police relentlessly pressuring a “weak” attorney general.

After being notified of an impending indictment, suspects are usually provided with the full case materials against them. However, according to Justice Ministry sources, Netanyahu’s defense team asked that case files be withheld until after the April 9 elections, reasoning they could be used for political purposes and campaign propaganda.

Alan Dershowitz, a prominent American lawyer, came to Netanyahu’s defense earlier Thursday, publishing an open letter to Mandelblit in which he warned that an indictment against the prime minister ahead of elections would undermine the democratic process. “I’m very worried for freedom of the press and freedom of government in Israel if they start indicting people for trying to get good coverage from the media,” Dershowitz also told Army Radio, referencing Cases 2000 and 4000, which revolve around alleged illicit deals in which the prime minister allegedly offered favors in return for favorable media coverage. “I don’t know of any other country that has criminalized trying to get good coverage and make that a basis of bribery or any other corruption investigation.”

On Sunday, the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee rejected for the second time a request by Netanyahu to fund his legal defense in the three cases via payments from wealthy associates, including his cousin.

Ehud Olmert, the country’s first former premier to serve prison time, stepped down from office in 2008 during the investigation into him, but before the intention to file charges was announced. He served 16 months in prison on corruption offenses and was released in July 2017.

 

Off TopicL  Striking a deal with Netanyahu will save Israels rule of law

February 28, 2019

Source: Striking a deal with Netanyahu will save Israels rule of law

( This, coming from the leftist Yediot causes me to think that they know the case against Bibi is very weak.- JW )

Opinion: Whatever Mandelblit says Thursday, the prime minister has already been judged in the court of public opinion,and many believe the system is corrupt and will do anything to have the PM’s head; the right thing to do is send him home without a criminal process that would tear Israel apart.
It’s a sad day for Israel. For decades now, every prime minister has also been a criminal suspect. The only comfort is that despite corruption, the rule of law presides. No one gets a free pass — not even the most powerful person in the country, and not even the president. But that’s hardly any comfort, since whatever Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says Thursday will be met with public outrage.
It’s not that the majority of the public thinks the rule of law in Israel is corrupt. But we do have to admit that most of the participants in both sides of the public debate about Netanyahu’s guilt, have made up their mind and taken a stand on the matter, without waiting for the attorney general to share his own conclusions.

AG Avichai Mandelblit and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

AG Avichai Mandelblit and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

A rigid perspective leads many members of the public to believe that some within the law enforcement authorities are acting from personal motivation rather than a desire to get to the truth. This doesn’t mean that whatever Mandelblit says is inevitably based on dishonest motives — far from. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that the decision about Netanyahu’s affairs was influenced by external pressures. Too many activists, journalists and politicians have already decided what the verdict will be. They have preached, they have protested, they have yelled. Every leak has become a headline and every headline has become a conviction. High-ranking judicial figures have been dragged into this media campaign against the PM.

It’s important to clarify that even if external pressures and personal motivations have been at work in regards to Netanyahu’s cases, it doesn’t make him free of corruption. And even if the criminal charges against him cannot be proven — and I do hope that this will be the case— the prime minister’s actions are riddled with corruption. Even though he and his supporters do raise some rightful claims about a public campaign of slander, leaks and pressure — there are undeniable facts describing gifts of phenomenal value, dubious decisions that aided his inner circle, unreasonable pressure on the media in the pursuit of positive news coverage, and on and on it goes.

All of this clarifies that Netanyahu has to give up the role of prime minister. The indictments to be announced Thursday don’t deal with a one-time glitch, but rather with a grim, ongoing narrative.

This is the home stretch in the campaign for Netanyahu’s future. Both camps are ready for  battle, but no one will be the winner in this fight, and we will all be the losers. If there’s still a chance to stop this fight from ripping Israeli society apart irreparably, it’s best that Mandelblit reaches a deal with Netanyahu.

The deal should include wiping out the charges against the prime minister in exchange for his resignation. There is no need to seek harsh judgment, but rather let’s make a deal to avoid undermining Israel’s rule of law. In truth, a deal could be its savior.

 

Report: Deal of century wont include Palestinian state

February 28, 2019

Source: Report: Deal of century wont include Palestinian state

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan will propose establishing Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip with political and economic links to the West Bank, according to the the Al-Quds newspaper; Jewish settlements will remain under Israel’s jurisdiction, but will not be expanded.

US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” to achieve peace in the Middle East will not include establishing a Palestinian state, and instead will propose Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip with political and economic links to the West Bank, the Al-Quds newspaper reported on Thursday.

In addition, the Palestinians will hold negotiations with Israel over Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military control.

Furthermore, the Jewish settlements will remain under Israel’s jurisdiction, but will not be expanded, according to Al-Quds.

US President Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

US President Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

The deal will also include strengthening cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians over the management of the Al Aqsa mosque.

Moreover, most of IDF checkpoints will be removed, enabling the Palestinians free movement across the West Bank. However, Area B and area C will remain under complete Israeli control.

Sources involved in the formulation of the deal said that some $25 billion will be invested in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in addition the US will transfer an additional $40 billion to Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon “to ensure their cooperation” in implementing the deal.

The report comes three days after Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, told Sky News Arabia in Abu Dhabi: “We want to get advice from them (countries in the region) on what is the best way to proceed and share with them some of the details of what we will be pursuing, especially on the economic vision for all the opportunity that exists if there is peace.”

In an interview broadcast on Monday on Sky News Arabia during a visit to US-allied Gulf Arab states, Kushner made no specific mention of a Palestinian state, whose creation had been a key goal of Washington’s peace efforts for two decades.

Kushner, who has responsibility for Washington’s Israel-Palestinian policy, has said the peace plan will address final-status issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including establishing borders.

But he said the long-awaited peace proposal would build on “a lot of the efforts in the past,” including the 1990s Oslo accords that provided a foundation for Palestinian statehood, and would require concessions from both sides.

He added the deal focuses on permanently solving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and that the Americans wish to see Gaza and the West Bank united under one leadership.

Kushner and Erdogan meet in Ankara (Photo: AFP)

Kushner and Erdogan meet in Ankara (Photo: AFP)

“Addressing the matter of the Israeli-Palestinian borders will ensure free movement of people and goods (across the West bank), leading to new opportunities. The Palestinian economy is restricted as long as peace is not achieved,” he said.

On Wednesday, Kushner met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, and the two discussed increasing US-Turkish cooperation and ways to boost economic conditions in the region.

“They discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Turkey, and the Trump administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said. “Additionally, they discussed ways to improve the condition of the entire region through economic investment.”

 

Putin accepts Netanyahu invite to Israel to honor Leningrad siege victims 

February 28, 2019

Source: Putin accepts Netanyahu invite to Israel to honor Leningrad siege victims – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

The Siege of Leningrad, one of the longest and most deadly sieges in history, was a lengthy military blockade by Nazi Germany against Leningrad, Russia on the Eastern Front in World War II.

BY SARA RUBENSTEIN
 FEBRUARY 28, 2019 14:53
Siege of Leningrad monument

Russian President Vladimir Putin acceptedthe invitation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel to attend the inauguration of a monument for the victims of the Siege in Leningrad

“We will soon inaugurate a monument in Jerusalem in memory of those who fell in the siege of Leningrad,” Netanyahu told Putin during his visit to Moscow on Wednesday. “I want to invite you as our guest of honor there in Jerusalem,” adding: “No one is more worthy than you.”

Putin responded, “I will come.”

The Siege of Leningrad, one of the longest and most deadly sieges in history, was a lengthy military blockade by Nazi Germany against Leningrad, Russia, on the Eastern Front in World War II. The siege began on September 8, 1941 and didn’t end until January 27, 1944, lasting a total of 872 days.

The siege caused extreme famine and led to the deaths of 1,500,000 soldiers, including 70,000 Jewish soldiers, and civilians. Additionally 1,400,000 people, mostly women and children, were evacuated but many did not survive, dying from hunger or bombings on the way. Some historians refer to the siege as a genocide of the Russian people.

The monument was constructed in a stele shape, a shape usually taller than it is wide and often erected in ancient times as a monument for funeral or commemorative purposes. Its steel surface will bear symbols of the State of Israel and of Leningrad along with captions describing the victims’ heroism. The center of the monument boasts a bronze “memorial candle” and will be lit at night.

The memorial will be erected near the center of Jerusalem but its exact location has not yet been determined. The inauguration is scheduled for May 2019.

Former Knesset Member Leon Litinetsky initiated the plan for the monument. It was funded by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), an organization that represents dozens of Jewish communities in eastern Europe and Eurasia.

“The project of the monument is the world’s first of its size outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union,” Litinetsky said. “The monument was designed to commemorate the heroism of the Red Army fighters and the people of Leningrad against the Nazis, which included 70,000 Jewish fighters who fell during the siege. The idea of inaugurating the monument came from both sides – from us and St. Petersburg’s government, which once again points to the historical issues that are common to both Israel and Russia.”

“I am proud to promote the project together with partners along the way, first and foremost the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, former mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, the current mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion and CEO of Jerusalem’s Development Authority Eyal Haimovsky,” Litinetsky continued.

“I believe this project will be another significant and historic factor that will contribute towards strengthening the ties between Israel and Russia. The monument will serve as an official venue in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, for celebrating the victory over the Nazis.”

 

Off Topic:  Trump, Kim summit collapses amid failure to reach deal 

February 28, 2019

Source: Trump, Kim summit collapses amid failure to reach deal – Israel Hayom

U.S. president says breakdown due to North Korea’s insistence that all sanctions be lifted without Pyongyang committing to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal • “Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump says, adding “I’d much rather do it right than fast.”

Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 28/02/2019
   
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thursday 


The nuclear summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un collapsed Thursday after the two sides failed to reach a deal due to a standoff over U.S. sanctions on the reclusive nation, a stunning end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global threat.

Trump, in a news conference after the abrupt end to the talks, said the breakdown occurred over North Korea’s insistence that all punishing sanctions the U.S. had imposed on North Korea be lifted without Pyongyang committing to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump explained, adding that an agreement was “ready to sign.”

“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” the president said. “We’re in position to do something very special.”

Both leaders motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other after both a lunch and the signing ceremony were scuttled. Trump’s closing news conference was moved up and he was expected to depart for Washington ahead of schedule.

The breakdown came after Trump and Kim had appeared to inch toward normalizing relations between their still technically-warring nations as the American leader tamped down expectations that their talks would yield an agreement by North Korea to take concrete steps toward ending its nuclear program.

In something of a role reversal, Trump deliberately ratcheted down some of the pressure on Pyongyang, abandoning his fiery rhetoric and declaring he wanted the “right deal” over a rushed agreement.

For his part, Kim, when asked whether he was ready to denuclearize, said “If I’m not willing to do that I won’t be here right now.”

Trump insisted that relations with Kim remained warm, stressing that progress had been made and that he was still hopeful of eventually reaching a deal to denuclearize North Korea.

 

Kushner meets Turkey’s Erdoğan on Israeli-Palestinian peace plan

February 28, 2019

Source: Kushner meets Turkey’s Erdoğan on Israeli-Palestinian peace plan – Israel Hayom

The American and Turkish teams also discuss increasing U.S.-Turkish cooperation and ways to boost economic conditions in the region • The Turkish president has been one of the most vocal critics of U.S. President Donald Trump’s support for Israel.

News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 28/02/2019
   
Jared Kushner with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, Wednesday 


White House adviser Jared Kushner discussed his Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday, and the two also discussed increasing U.S.-Turkish cooperation and ways to boost economic conditions in the region.

Kushner, who has responsibility for Washington’s Israel-Palestinian policy, has said the peace plan will address final-status issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including establishing borders.

The White House said the meeting with Erdoğan included Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook.

Turkey’s Economy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdoğan’s son-in-law, also attended.

“They discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Turkey, and the Trump administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said. “Additionally, they discussed ways to improve the condition of the entire region through economic investment.”

Erdoğan has been one of the most vocal critics of U.S. President Donald Trump’s support for Israel.

Last year he said the United States had forfeited its role as mediator in the Middle East by moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

“The United States has chosen to be part of the problem rather than the solution,” the Turkish president said last May, days before he hosted a summit of Muslim leaders which threatened economic measures against countries which followed the United States in moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

In an interview broadcast on Monday on Sky News Arabia during a visit to U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states, Kushner made no specific mention of a Palestinian state, whose creation had been a key goal of Washington’s peace efforts for two decades.

But he said the long-awaited peace proposal would build on “a lot of the efforts in the past,” including the 1990s Oslo accords that provided a foundation for Palestinian statehood, and would require concessions from both sides.

U.S. officials said that Kushner is expected to focus on the economic component of the plan during his week-long trip to the region.

Kushner has said he plans to release details of the plan sometime after Israel’s April 9 general election.

His comments about the initiative have received a cool reception from Israeli and Palestinian leaders and his trip to Ankara is part of a Mideast tour aimed at building support for the plan.

On Tuesday, Kushner and Greenblatt met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss cooperation between the two countries and the peace plan.

 

IDF hits targets in Gaza after explosive balloon damages home 

February 28, 2019

Source: IDF hits targets in Gaza after explosive balloon damages home – Israel Hayom

“Over the past three weeks they [Palestinians in Gaza] have launched a lot of balloons and because they do it at night, it’s hard to stop it,” says Rachel Danzig, whose home in Eshkol region is damaged • IDF: Hamas is responsible for what happens in Gaza.

Daniel Siryoti, Nikki Guttman and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 28/02/2019
   
An Israeli airstrike in Gaza 


Israeli warplanes struck numerous Hamas posts in southern Gaza late Wednesday night after a small bomb attached to a bundle of balloons was launched into Israel from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

The explosive device damaged the front window of a home in the Eshkol region.

No casualties were reported.

The bomb exploded near the home of Rachel Danzig, whose home was almost hit by a rocket fired from Gaza during the previous spat of hostilities.

“I’m shaking right now,” she said. “The balloon exploded next to my house, I thought it was literally inside the house. It’s scary because there’s no deterrence. My neighbor has a hole in her garden, glass is shattered all over my home and everything moved from the blast. I’m still traumatized by the first time. My neighbor is absolutely frightened. She’s 70 years old and is in shock.

“Over the past three weeks, they [Palestinians in Gaza] have launched a lot of balloons and because they do it at night, it’s hard to stop it. People could get hurt,” Danzig said.

“The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for anything that occurs in the Gaza Strip and for all the consequences of its terrorist activity there,” the IDF said in a statement.