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Amid Problems At Home, Netanyahu Heads To U.S. For 5-day Trip

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in the United States Sunday morning for a five-day visit that will include a meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump, the fifth face-to-face between the two leaders since the latter took office in January 2017. Topping the agenda will be the stalemated peace process with the Palestinians and the Iran nuclear deal, which Washington currently is working towards amending. Netanyahu also is expected to invite the U.S. president to partake in festivities planned for the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem in May; this, after the Trump administration formally recognized the holy city as Israel’s capital in December. While overseas, Netanyahu is slated to meet with both Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress; address the annual policy conference of AIPAC, an influential pro-Israel lobby group; and attend a Jewish Agency tribute to outgoing chairman Natan Sharansky. Netanyahu’s fourth trip abroad this year—following visits to India and Davos in January and Munich in February—comes after he was grilled by police for five hours on Friday in connection with the so-called “Bezeq Affair,” also known as Case 4000. In it, the Israeli premier is suspected of orchestrating positive media coverage for himself from the owner of the popular Walla news site, Shaul Elovitch, who is also the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications giant. In return, Netanyahu allegedly helped Bezeq buy the Israeli satellite cable provider Yes while overriding any anti-trust issues raised by ministry officials. Last month, police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in two additional cases: one in which he is accused of accepting lavish gifts in return for providing favors to wealthy benefactors (Case 1000); and the other regarding an alleged agreement to trade positive newspaper coverage for favors that benefit Yediot Ahronot owner Arnon Mozes (Case 2000). Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is now tasked with reviewing the evidence before deciding whether to formally prosecute Netanyahu, a process that could take months.