Israeli television and radio reported Tuesday that police have recommended felony indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s justice minister, his chief of staff and a key coalition ally.
The reported police recommendations, after a three-month corruption probe, excluded Netanyahu himself from calls for prosecution. But even without official confirmation, the reports struck a political body blow to Netanyahu’s embattled government, raising questions about his grip on power.
The reports, on government-owned Israel Television and its privately owned competitor, Channel Two, cited confidential sources as saying a 995-page police report found grounds for fraud, extortion and breach-of-trust charges in the appointment last January of Roni Bar-On, a little-known criminal lawyer, as attorney general.
The police probe began with allegations that the Shas party leader, Aryeh Deri, used his leverage in Netanyahu’s coalition to place Bar-On in the job. Deri already was on trial on corruption charges, and Israeli news media reports alleged he expected Bar-On to soften the case against him.
The attorney general, who is Israel’s chief prosecutor and the legal adviser to the government, has the power to decide plea bargains and to recommend sentencing.
Even without formal charges, the reports began to shift the political landscape. Labor Party figures pronounced a death sentence on the idea, hotly debated until now, of joining Netanyahu’s government in a “unity coalition.”
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