Can Netanyahu Weather the Latest Bribery Storm?
(Bloomberg) -- Israel's longest-serving prime minister since its founding father has seemed to have nine lives. He may need a tenth.
Police wrapped up a year-long investigation yesterday by recommending Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery and fraud in two separate cases. He denies any wrongdoing. The file now goes to the attorney general, the ultimate arbiter of whether to charge him. The process could take months and an indictment is far from assured: Netanyahu has been here twice before, only to see attorneys general determine the cases were too flimsy and close them.
Netanyahu declared today there are no plans for early elections, and so far, his governing coalition has stood by him. Not only is his Likud Party closing ranks, but two rivals who see themselves as replacements — Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Education Minister Naftali Bennett — aren't pouncing either, waiting to see what the attorney general will do.
As tensions build with Iran and Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, the possibility of a trial is a distraction Netanyahu can ill afford. But he may well argue that given the precarious security situation, Israel needs his experienced hands on the wheel more than ever.
Embattled president | U.S. President Donald Trump's aides are spending the week mired in controversy. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is under increasing scrutiny for his handling of domestic violence allegations against former top aide Rob Porter. Meanwhile Trump's personal lawyer told the New York Times that he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to the former adult movie star known as Stormy Daniels who once claimed to have an affair with the president. The attorney wouldn't say whether Trump knew about the transaction.
Zuma cornered | These are troubled times for South African President Jacob Zuma. A day after his ruling African National Congress said he must resign or he'll be forced from office, police raided the home of his friends, the Gupta family, who're in business with his son and have been accused of influencing cabinet appointments and state contracts. While the nation awaits his response today, his room for maneuver is dwindling by the hour.
From Boris, with love | Brexit poster boy Boris Johnson has a habit of spoiling Theresa May's big moments. The U.K. foreign minister might be up to his old tricks again today when he'll warn supporters of the European Union that reversing Brexit would be disastrous. Ahead of the prime minister's own speech on Saturday, his words are being interpreted as a warning to her on making too many compromises with Brussels.
Abe on the back foot | You can't say Shinzo Abe hasn't tried. The Japanese prime minister has met Russia's Vladimir Putin 20 times to try and end a dispute over the sovereignty of islands to Japan's north that were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II — and finally sign a peace treaty. But Putin has responded with a military buildup that includes drills, a new airport, upgraded armaments and anti-ship missile batteries on the isles.
Prime influencer | Amazon has been expanding lobbying efforts to rapidly become one of the most-influential companies in Washington, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The e-commerce giant — a target of Trump's tweet ire — has increased lobbying spending by more than 400 percent in the past five years, far outpacing rivals. Bloomberg also took a look at where Facebook and Google are spending money to influence decision makers.
And finally... In Tokyo, women in the workplace are expected to buy and distribute chocolates to their male colleagues on Valentine's Day — regardless of romantic attachments. However, giving “giri choco,” or “obligation chocolates," may not happen as much this year, with Japanese women reporting they'd prefer to avoid the practice. That's a victory for Shinzo Abe's “womenomics” push to empower female workers.
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