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After years of investigations, Netanyahu charged with bribery, fraud, breach of trust

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been formally charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, marking the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted on criminal charges.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Thursday that after three years of investigations, Netanyahu would be charged in three different corruption cases.

“This is a sad and tough day,” Mandelblit said in a press conference, “for me and for Israel. I have made the decision with a heavy heart, but whole heartedly.”

“No stone was left unturned,” he said, adding that he conducted a length preliminary probe and made “sure there were real charges, because going after a prime minister is serious.”

The cases against Netanyahu center around allegations that the premiere engaged in a quid pro quo with media executives in which Netanyahu, in his capacity as communications minister, pushed policies that benefited the execs in exchange for favorable media coverage.

Another major charge lies in allegations that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, accepted gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (approx. $260,000) in exchange for political favors.

Hours after Mandelblit’s announcement, Netanyahu held a press conference, calling the charges “an attempted coup” against him.

Netanyahu  accused the investigations, as well as the police, of being “contaminated,” saying “in this procedure they didn’t look for the truth. They were looking for me.”

Earlier in the day, he Tweeted: “The investigators need to be investigated!”

“These trumped up charges against me are shocking not only to me but to masses of Israeli citizens, raise questions about the function of the police and the attitude of the system of justice,” he said.

Netanyahu concluded his press conference by reassuring voters that he would not be stepping down from office, and that he would “continue to lead this country, as the law allows me.”

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest serving prime minister, and has shaped much of Israeli politics for the past decade. Throughout the investigations, Netanyahu has referred to the process as a “witch hunt” and called the accusations against him “fake news.”

Thursday’s announcement capped a tumultuous political year for the face of Israel’s right-wing, following his failure to form a governing coalition after barely scraping together a majority of votes in two election cycles.

The indictments mean that Israel’s Justice Ministry will now move to strip Netanyahu of his parliamentary immunity — which analysts say has been the motivating factor behind Netnayahu’s unrelenting attempts at reelection: as long as he’s prime minister, he won’t face jail time.

Coincidentally, Thursday was also the first day of a three-week window in which any member of the Knesset can try to form a governing majority.

The extremely rare political event, spurred on by the failure of both Netanyahu and his opponent Benny Gantz to form majority coalitions, will also be given to the two political rivals. If no majority is formed in the next 21 days, Israel will head for an unprecedented, and unwanted, third election cycle.

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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9 Responses

  1. Sulphurdunn on November 21, 2019, 4:44 pm

    “These trumped up charges against me…” Pun intended.

    • Misterioso on November 22, 2019, 2:52 pm

      Oh, Bibi, say it isn’t so!!

      https://www.juancole.com/2019/11/minister-netanyahu-political.html

      “Israeli ‘Crime Minister’ Netanyahu Indicted, Political System in Freefall” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Nov. 22/19.

      “Israel’s attorney general has indicted prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ari Shapiro and Daniel Estrin report at NPR, on charges of ‘bribery, fraud and breach of trust.’ Israeli protesters against the far right and openly racist Likud leader have for some time chanted against him as the ‘crime minister.’

      “Netanyahu lost the most recent election, the second this year, and proved unable to form a government because the other parties all despise him and they all ostracize the Palestinian-Israeli coalition, which has 13 seats. Israel is going to a third election, and Netanyahu hopes to win this time so as to be able to use his position as prime minister to quash the indictment.

      “A government could have been formed by a coalition of parties if the Likud Party had been willing to dump Netanyahu as its head. But by now, many of the party leaders came to power on Netanyahu’s coattails and they could no more dump him than US Republicans can dump Trump.

      “Just to underline, a government could also have been formed if any of the Zionist parties had been willing to let the mainly Palestinian-Israeli Joint List come into their coalition. Some 20% of Israelis are of Palestinian heritage, and are excluded from cabinet posts by the Jewish mainstream. It is sort of as if no African-Americans were ever allowed by a US president to serve as secretaries of major departments and were excluded from the cabinet.

      “On the other hand, if Netanyahu comes back to power and sidelines the indictment through political means, that would be a huge further step toward authoritarianism and possibly the nail in the coffin of what little is left of Israeli democracy.

      “The indictments themselves speak to the ways that political corruption has corrupted and ruined Israeli journalism.

      “However, now that he is indicted, Netanyahu is abruptly facing challenges for leadership within his party. If a new party leader emerged, it might make it possible for a government finally to be formed.

      “I wrote on this issue earlier:
      ‘Netanyahu is currently entangled in four political scandals: Case 1000 which involves allegations that the PM and his wife accepted illegal gifts from businessmen; Case 2000 which accuses Netanyahu of attempting to buy favourable newspaper coverage; Case 3000, also known as the ‘submarine scandal;’ and Case 4000, in which a close associate of Netanyahu is suspected of providing confidential information to Israel’s largest telecoms company.’

      “I explained in more detail elsewhere: The police instanced two cases, one in which Netanyahu allegedly accepted a couple hundred thousand dollars in bribes from an Australian businessmen in return for favorable treatment of his business and attempting to get him a US visa. (Whether Netanyahu regularly got people visas should be looked into as a form of corruption on the US side).

      “In the other case, Netanyahu is alleged to have offered a deal to Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s biggest-circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Netanyahu supporter and shady casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson had begun a free pro-Netanyahu newspaper, Yisrael Ha-Yom, and it obviously was eating into the profits of the other newspapers in the country. (How this is not illegal as ‘dumping’ baffles me.) Netanyahu allegedly told Mozes that he could persuade Adelson to reduce the publication run of Yisrael Ha-Yom, which would help his bottom line. In return, Mozes should report more favorably on Netanyahu.

      “In my view it is the second case that is explosive. In the first one Netanyahu got champagne and cigars. But the second case shows how far right wing nationalist politics is intertwined with shady businesses like casino-owning and their ability, having bilked millions of poor and working people out of their money, to turn around and buy influential press organs to convince the latter to vote for the people who screwed them over. (Although Netanyahu is notorious in the West for having reneged on the Oslo Accords and having denied Palestinians their rights, within Israel he has also led an assault on the old socialist welfare state, throwing workers under the bus and diverting money to the billionaire class.) It is a perfect vicious circle.

      “Sheldon Adelson, who allegedly recouped his fortune at one point by bribing members of the Chinese Communist Party to let him operate in Macao, has the dubious distinction of having ruined both the United States and Israel by pushing, respectively, Netanyahu and Trump. Adelson sidelined New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the 2016 Republican primary for having referred to Gaza and the West Bank as ‘Occupied Territories,’ which they self-evidently are. In Adelson’s warped world, there are and never have been any Palestinians and random Arabs have no business in his Israel.

      “I pointed out,
      “The Israeli police and justice system have shown a willingness to punish corruption in high places. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to 27 months in 2014, but was released early.

      “According to BBC Monitoring, the police issued a statement saying,
      ‘Between the years 2012 and 2017 the prime minister and his aides intervened blatantly and continuously, and sometimes even daily, in the content published by the Walla news website. The intervention of the prime minister and his aides in the content and appointments [of editors and reporters] at the Walla website was meant to advance his personal interests, through publication of flattering articles and photos, removal of content critical of the prime minister and his family members, and so on.’

      “The case concerns the giant media company, Bezeq and the favors and tax breaks thrown to it by Netanyahu, who kept the Communications portfolio in his cabinet for himself.”

      VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=6EkaLMMc614&feature=emb_logo
      Israeli PM Netanyahu indicted on corruption charges

  2. Misterioso on November 22, 2019, 10:18 am

    @Sulphurdunn

    Hopefully, Trump will be next!!

  3. Vera Gottlieb on November 22, 2019, 11:56 am

    There is this saying…”$hit always rises to the top”. Will it?

  4. genesto on November 22, 2019, 1:36 pm

    The comparisons between Israel’s corrupt leader and our own are unmistakable, but unsurprising. Both use their high offices to enrich themselves financially. Both are tribal narcissists that embrace white supremacy, Trump’s being fundamentalist Christian in nature and Bibi’s Ashkenazi Jewish. As such, both are racists who want nothing to do with people of color nor immigrants – unless, of course, the immigrants are more of their own.

    The fact that these two are close partners in crime is also unsurprising. We all hope that justice prevails against both of these despicable characters, and we soon can be rid of them once and for all.

  5. Mooser on November 22, 2019, 6:06 pm

    Do I have this right? If Bibi is sufficiently weakened by the indictments, and there are political realignments with Likud losing support, then Gantz or Blue/White will be able to form a government and not include the Joint List?

    • annie on November 22, 2019, 6:21 pm

      i don’t think so. i think lieberman’s party is crucial and that’s why they call him the kingmaker.

      • Mooser on November 23, 2019, 12:32 pm

        So Lieberman’s Beitnu (whatever) party (‘secular’ right) and Gantz (right) and Likud (religious right) without Netanyahoo could do it, and still exclude Joint List?

      • annie on November 23, 2019, 4:43 pm

        yes

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