Benjamin Netanyahu Indicted For Bribery And Fraud
Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit charged the 70-year-old leader Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It was the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime. In the 63-page indictment, Netanyahu was accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of pounds in luxury gifts from billionaire friends and for trading valuable favours with Israeli media and telecoms moguls for positive news coverage.
Responding to the indictment, a pale-faced Netanyahu said in a televised speech that the “false” and “politically motivated” charges amounted to an “attempted coup” against him. “The public has lost trust in the legal system,” he said.
Israeli police recommended indictments in the three cases. Netanyahu could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
The first case, known as case 1000, involves allegations of receiving gifts such as cigars, champagne and jewellery, from billionaires, including the Hollywood businessman Arnon Milchan, in exchange for favours. The indictment estimated the value of the gifts at about £150000. In return, Netanyahu helped Milchan, an Israeli who produced the film Pretty Woman, to extend his US visa, according to the charges.
In case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of colluding with the country’s top-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage.
In the third and most serious case, case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of offering incentives worth close to £200m to the Israeli telecoms provider Bezeq in exchange for positive stories on an online news website it owns. Charges raised against Netanyahu in case 4,00 were the only ones to involve the more damning indictment of bribery.
Itzik Shmuli, a member of the Labor party, said the charges were the “most serious indictment against an elected official in the history of the state”. The main opposition Blue and White party posted a 11-year-old video of Netanyahu in which he called for then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to resign as he battled corruption allegations. “A prime minister neck deep in investigations does not have a moral and public mandate to make fateful decisions for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in the video. Olmert stepped down before he was indicted and later served 16 months in jail.
Since he returned to power in 2009, Netanyahu has managed to keep his party loyal, although cracks have begun to show. A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, carried out last month, found that 65% of Israelis thought Netanyahu should resign as head of the Likud party if indicted.