Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted in corruption cases, including charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
The Associated Press reports the new charges have come after months of deliberations by Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit:
Israel’s attorney general says the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “heavy-hearted decision” based solely on professional considerations.
Addressing reporters Thursday, Avichai Mandelblit rejected suggestions that the indictment was politically motivated.
He angrily criticized pressure campaigns by Netanyahu’s supporters and foes to sway his decision, which came after months of deliberations.
Netanyahu has called the corruption charges a witch hunt and repeatedly lashed out at police and prosecutors throughout the investigation.
Politico reports this is “the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.”
And: “According to the indictment, Netanyahu accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favors with a newspaper publisher and used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.”
Reuters reports Netanyahu continues to deny any wrongdoing in the three cases and is not under any legal obligation to resign.
Israel's attorney general indicts Prime Minister Netanyahu in corruption cases pic.twitter.com/oMTxXoQp0K
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 21, 2019
According to the Associated Press, the charges have some of Netanyahu’s political rivals arguing he should not be leading the country—as it is about to enter its third round of elections in less than a year.
Former army chief Benny Gantz, who is running against Netanyahu, said in a statement Thursday that Netanyahu “will make decisions in his own personal interest and for his political survival and not in the national interest,” the Associated Press reports.
The two have been deadlocked for months as neither individual has been able to form a coalition government. In a multi-party parliament, a leading party has to get enough smaller parties to back them until they have the majority. Netanyahu’s indictment process and subsequent charges have undoubtedly shaken the confidence of these smaller party leaders.
Here’s more on the charges, per Politico:
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
The most serious charges were connected to so-called “Case 4000,” in which Netanyahu is accused of passing regulations that gave his friend, telecom magnate Shaul Elovitch, benefits worth over $250 million to his company Bezeq. In return, Bezeq’s news site, Walla, published favorable articles about Netanyahu and his family.
The relationship, it said, was “based on a mutual understanding that each of them had significant interests that the other side had the ability to advance.” It also accused Netanyahu of concealing the relationship by providing “partial and misleading information” about his connections with Elovitch.
Two close aides to Netanyahu turned state’s witness and testified against him in the case.
The indictment also said that Netanyahu’s gifts of champagne from billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer “turned into a sort of supply line.” It estimated the value of the gifts at nearly $200,000.