Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced yesterday evening his intention to indict the Prime Minister on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the three corruption cases against him.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be charged, pending a hearing, with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, and with fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and Case 2000. Netanyahu is innocent until proven guilty. He is not required to resign and can compete in the 9 April elections.
In a 57-page ‘announcement of suspicions,’ the Attorney General said Netanyahu: “Hurt the image of public service and public faith in it”. He added: “You [Netanyahu] acted in a conflict of interests, you abused your authority while taking into account other considerations that relate to your personal interests and the interests of your family. You corrupted public servants working under you.”
In Case 4000, considered the most serious case, Netanyahu is accused of advancing regulatory concessions to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecommunications, in exchange for favourable news reports in the Walla news website, which is also owned by Elovitch. Netanyahu is suspected of taking bribes and acting in a conflict of interest, including Bezeq’s merger with the satellite TV company Yes.
According to the police investigation, from 2012 to 2017 Netanyahu and his associates “blatantly intervened” on a near-daily basis in the Walla news website, using their connections with Elovitch, and his wife Iris, to influence appointments there and to promote flattering articles and pictures while dropping critical stories.
Last night Netanyahu gave a speech on Israeli TV and accused his political opponents of carrying out a witch hunt. He said: “The pressure of the left worked … for three years they have been engaged in political persecution against us, an unprecedented witch hunt with the sole purpose of overthrowing the right-wing government under my leadership and bringing Lapid and Gantz’s left-wing party to power.”
He added: “They exerted constant, inhumane pressure on the Attorney General to say that he was considering filing an indictment against me, subject to a hearing, even when it was clear that there is nothing. The main thing is to influence the elections, even when we know that this house of cards will collapse completely afterwards. And given that the attorney general is only flesh and blood, the pressure of the left worked. Today happened something of the utmost seriousness to harm Israeli democracy.”
According to a Yisrael Hayom/i24 News poll, Blue and White party is predicted to win 38 seats, Likud 29 seats, United Right list 9 seats, New Right 8 seats, Labour 7 seats, Hadash-Ta’al 7 seats, Shas 6 seats, UTJ 6 seats, Meretz 6 seats, and Kulanu 4 seats.
BICOM’s latest briefing sets out the detail of the legal and political process following the Attorney General’s decision.