According to Palestine News Network, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to officially indict prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
Beginning in October, Netanyahu’s defence team presented the prime minister’s position to the state prosecution, accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases.
The prosecution, lead by Mandelblit, has been working on these cases for the last two years. The prime minister has always downplayed the accusations as a witch hunt against him and the Likud party. However, the Attorney General painted a rather unflattering picture of Netanyahu today.
According to Mandelblit, Netanyahu has incessantly enriched himself by accepting certain goods and securing preferential treatment for certain media. The defence presented by Netanyahu’s team of lawyers did not impress the Attorney General.
Details of the Accusations
Case 1000 focuses on suspicions that Netanyahu received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of gifts in the form of boxes of champagne, cigars and other such luxury goods from Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan. According to the draft indictment Netanyahu “acted while manning public roles in favor of Milchan in numerous personal and business affairs, while he was in a grave conflict of interest between the common good and his personal commitment to Milchan.”
According to Netanyahu it’s permissible to receive gifts from friends, another line of defence is that, his wife Sara may have asked Milchan to arrange the presents without his knowledge.
Case 2000 emphasizes the Prime Minister’s involvement in promoting legislation that would disadvantage the free daily newspaper Hayom, in the interest of their main competitor Yedioth Ahronoth and its news site Ynet, lead by publisher Arnon Mozes.
Yedioth Ahronoth is Israel’s best-selling newspaper and the question at hand is if Netanyahu’s actions constitute a conflict of interest, since Mozes allegedly promised Netanyahu favorable coverage, in return for the legislation.
Netanyahu’s reply is that both Mozes and he were only trying to manipulate one another, and neither of them had the intention of following through with the proposal.
Case 4000, deals with the suspicions that Netanyahu acted in the interest of former Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch that helped him to profit by more than a billion shekels. In return for his services, as with case 2000, Netanyahu was promised favorable coverage on the Walla website, which is under Elovitch’s direction.
This case was first brought to light by Haaretz in 2015, when Netanyahu was Minister of Communications as well as Prime Minister. This is the only case of the three in which he faces charges of bribery, as well as fraud and breach of trust.
Netanyahu’s defence in this case is that there isn’t any clear evidence of his involvement in Bezeq’s profits and the subsequent media coverage. Also, he claims that the Walla coverage wasn’t beneficial to him at all and, according to him, no one has ever been accused of bribery for receiving good press.
For now, Netanyahu won’t have to step down. This will only be necessary if he’s found guilty on the charges in question and no further means of appeal remain at his disposition. According to Israeli media, it is the first time in the history of the country that an acting prime minister is being prosecuted.
Netanyahu has been prime minister for the last 13 years, making him the longest serving P.M. of Israel. This case only makes Israel’s internal political situation more difficult. Two rounds of elections have already been held during which Netanyahu appeared unable to form a government.
Since Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, has not succeeded in bringing this task to a good end either, a third round of elections seems to be on the horizon.
Photo credit: PNN
Edited for IMEMC: Ali Salam