…As South Africa’s ruling ANC orders President Jacob Zuma to step down***
Israeli police have recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery and breach of trust, in an embarrassing blow that has thrown the prime minister’s political future in doubt.
Following a 14-month investigation into two cases of alleged corruption, the country’s attorney general will examine the evidence and then – possibly in several months’ time – decide whether to indict.
The country has been anxiously waiting for the prosecutor’s recommendation, which local media has speculated could force the prime minister to resign.
A police statement late on Tuesday said that enough evidence had been gathered against the prime minister for committing the crimes of “bribery, fraud, and breach of trust”.
Minutes after the news of the police report spread across Israeli media, Netanyahu held a press conference in Jerusalem, vehemently denying any wrongdoing and dismissing rumours that he would step down.
He said the development was the latest in a long list of endeavours to remove him from government. “All these attempts end up with nothing because I know the truth. I tell you, also this time, things will end up with nothing.
“I will continue to lead Israel responsibly and faithfully,” he said, adding he plans to run in elections that must be held by the end of next year.
Police have questioned Netanyahu several times at his official residence in Jerusalem during the past few months regarding the two cases in which he is a suspect.
Case 1000, or the so-called “gifts affair”, involves claims that he and his family received valuable gifts from international billionaires, including expensive cigars, pink champagne and jewellery for his wife. Alleged wealthy benefactors include the Hollywood producer and media magnate Arnon Milchan as well as the Australian businessman James Packer.
In a statement, police said Netanyahu had accepted gifts valued at 750,000 shekels (£150,000, $208,300) from Milchan, and 250,000 shekels (or £51,000, $70,822) from Packer. In return, Netanyahu had helped Milchan, a producer who has worked on Pretty Woman and Fight Club, on US visa matters and Israeli tax breaks.
Separately, case 2000 relates to secret talks with the publisher of a leading Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in which Netanyahu allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for damaging a competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.
Police said both Milchan and Mozes could be charged with bribery. Neither made an immediate comment.
Having ruled for close to 12 years during four terms, the 68-year-old leader heads a delicately balanced coalition that keeps him in power.
The former prime minister and Netanyahu political rival Ehud Barak called on Netanyahu to suspend himself and for the coalition to choose a replacement.
“The depth of corruption is horrifying,” Barak said. “This does not look like nothing. This looks like bribery.”
A poll by the local Channel 10 found last summer that 66% of Israelis believed the premier should resign if indicted. Weekly demonstrations over the slow pace of the investigations have also added pressure on officers to submit a recommendation.
Meanwhile, scandal-plagued South African President Jacob Zuma must leave office, his ruling party said Tuesday — but there was still no indication when he would comply with growing calls for him to stand aside.
The African National Congress (ANC) finally decided to “recall” Zuma at a marathon overnight meeting, said Ace Magashule, the party’s secretary-general.
The decision comes amid ongoing political uncertainty. Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, has already become the party’s leader and indicated he wants to take over the presidency as soon as possible to help boost the country’s weak economy.
Zuma promised to resign, Magashule said after the latest talks, but wanted to stay in office for several more months. However, Magashule called for Zuma’s departure to be “speedily resolved.”
“We will treat comrade Zuma with dignity and we will not humiliate him,” the party announced. We are expecting that comrade Zuma will respond [Wednesday].”
If Zuma clings on, the matter could go to parliament for a vote on a motion of no confidence that could bolster opposition groups.
The impasse highlighted the disarray within the ANC, which became the main movement against white minority rule and has led South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. It once commanded moral stature as the party of Nelson Mandela, but corruption scandals linked to Zuma, who denies wrongdoing, have cut into its popularity.
The 75-year-old was ousted in December as ANC leader. In 2016, he was forced to pay back some of the millions in state money he used to upgrade his private residence.
Guardian UK with additional report from NBC