Israel's Netanyahu is about to be charged with bribery and breach of trust, 2 months before national elections

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to be charged in three separate criminal cases on Thursday, according to multiple Israeli news outlets.
  • One case concerns bribery, and the two others concern fraud and breach of trust.
  • He is accused of receiving gifts and positive news coverage, in exchange for regulatory benefits from the government.
  • The indictments are due to hit less than two months before a general election. Netanyahu has reportedly been trying to delay the attorney general’s announcement.

Israel’s attorney general announced his intention to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with corruption and bribery in three separate criminal cases Thursday, two months before national elections.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving gifts and positive news coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits from the government.

Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney general, announced his intention to make the indictment on Thursday. The next step is a court hearing, according to The Times of Israel and Barak Ravid, a reporter at Israel’s Channel 13 news.

Depending on the outcome of the hearing, Netanyahu would be the first sitting prime minister to be indicted, The Economist noted.

Here’s what the cases are:

  • “Case 1,000,” which concerns allegations that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, had accepted one million shekels ($US276,000) worth of Champagne, cigars, flights, and hotel rooms from an Israeli movie producer and an Australian casino mogul, according to The Times of Israel.
  • “Case 2,000,” which regards allegations that Netanyahu tried to broker a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which the newspaper covered Netanyahu favourably, and the government would limit its rival’s circulation in exchange.
  • “Case 4,000,” in which authorities allege that Netanyahu granted regulatory benefits to Bezeq, a telecommunications company, in exchange for positive coverage of Netanyahu by Bezeq’s subsidiary news site Walla.

Former journalists at Walla have testified to being pressured to refrain from negatively covering Netanyahu’s government, The Guardian reported. Israeli police last December that Netanyahu be charged with bribery over “Case 4,000.”

Netanyahu had previously asked Mandelblit to delay his indictment announcement until after the country’s April 9 elections, but Mandelblit refused, The Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu’s Likud party also tried to get the Israeli High Court to block Mandelblit’s announcement of the indictments on Thursday, Haaretz reported.

Likud called the court’s decision “regrettable” and characterised the indictments as “left’s blatant intervention in the election,” according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu also cut short his trip to Moscow this week, where he is discussing issues about Syria and the Middle East with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Israeli media speculated on Wednesday that it was to prepare for Mandelblit’s indictment.

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