Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
To indict someone for bribery, you need to have a bribe-giver.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be in far hotter water in the corruption cases against him now that billionaire Arnon Milchan has been questioned by police under suspicion of bribery.
Until now, the debate was only over whether Netanyahu had received overly generous and therefore illegal gifts from tycoons like Milchan.
But there was no smoking gun, no quid pro quo – no allegation of bribery, the most serious of corruption crimes.
This was also a problem for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. Even assuming that Netanyahu had received illegal gifts, if there was no quid pro quo, no negative realworld impact, was Mandelblit really going to take down a government for the least serious of corruption crimes? The whole picture may now be different.
Before, there were vague assertions that Milchan gave gifts to Netanyahu and might have influenced coverage by Channel 10, as a partial owner, to the benefit of the prime minister.
These claims were a hard sell, as Channel 10 is often seen as one of Netanyahu’s archenemies.
Now, there are far more specific claims that Milchan may have received a financial benefit in transactions related to Channel 10, partially due to interventions by Netanyahu. Now, there is a real chance there was a bribe-giver.
If there was a bribe-giver, it becomes much more likely that there was a bribe-receiver as well.
It is possible that someone could give a bribe and the receiver might not realize he is being bribed. But that is usually a stretch.
The timing is also important.
The state’s witness deal with former Netanyahu aide Ari Harow was signed not long ago.
Switching Milchan from fact-witness to a suspected bribe giver seems at least partially to be connected to new details provided by Harow.
The police will now likely re-question Netanyahu under suspicion of bribery based on new information from Harow and Milchan.
A bribery case against Netanyahu would give Mandelblit a far stronger hand for justifying an indictment that could bring down the government.
Thus, the noose tightens.
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