Benjamin Netanyahu under FBI investigation as Trump visit looms

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu has been in power in Israel since 2009 As Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is often hailed as a global statesman, yet as US President Donald…

Benjamin Netanyahu under FBI investigation as Trump visit looms

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu has been in power in Israel since 2009

As Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is often hailed as a global statesman, yet as US President Donald Trump prepares to visit his country, he is beset by questions about his own fortunes.

The FBI has been investigating Mr Netanyahu over possible collusion with an Israeli newspaper publisher in an attempt to reduce what the owner charged him as a libelous article.

Israel has refused to cooperate with the US investigation, even though Mr Netanyahu has said nothing untoward took place and is co-operating with local investigations.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Jerusalem says the man in question, businessman Yedioth Ahronoth owner Arnon Milchan, is a close associate of Mr Netanyahu’s.

While he is not accused of wrongdoing himself, Mr Milchan is being investigated over whether he improperly arranged meetings between the Israeli PM and Mr Milchan’s American business partner, Jeffery Epstein, as Mr Netanyahu sought to preserve Yedioth’s circulation.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Netanyahu and Yedioth publisher Arnon Milchan are close

Mr Netanyahu says he has no “personal financial interests with Arnon Milchan”, adding that he only met him to talk about “a subject of enormous importance for both of us” in the context of the Iran nuclear deal, in 2015.

He said he would fight the allegations.

A previous charge that Mr Netanyahu had pressured an ally of Mr Milchan’s to sell a key piece of public land to help Mr Milchan has also been dropped after Yedioth’s owner announced plans to increase the size of the building site to make it financially viable.

Mr Netanyahu has also denied trying to pay a Kuwaiti prince to delay a reform of Israeli cellular phone companies, which he said would have damaged Yedioth.

Of the three Netanyahu’s cabinet posts, the biggest individual responsibility is Foreign Minister.

Mr Netanyahu has come under criticism for his handling of the peace process with the Palestinians and when he came to power, his diplomatic strategy alienated many of the countries in which Israel is in contact with.

The East Jerusalem cases

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Israel has not entered negotiations with the Palestinians since 2014

Israel has charged two Jewish Orthodox seminary students in East Jerusalem with the murder of three Palestinian teenagers in a park in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

They allegedly stabbed the boys, aged 15, 16 and 17, in March 2016.

Israel said the teens’ school bus had stopped in a park near their home, and they were attacked by “wildmen of the Hebron religious community”.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected an appeal against the verdict and handed two 15-year sentences to the two defendants.

They are then to be held in prison pending sentencing.

Hebron has been the focus of heightened tension in recent months, because two Israeli civilians killed Palestinian protesters there in June.

Read more

Leave a Comment