Netanyahu will be the first sitting prime minister to face trial in Israel’s history.
Rabat – Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, January 28, on charges of corruption and bribery.
The charges came hours before the PM was set to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. for the unveiling of the US administration’s Middle East plan to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Trump’s plan includes the drawing of new Israeli borders, a proposal that has sparked protests throughout the Arab world.
“At this fateful hour for the people of Israel, while I am in the United States on a historic mission to shape the final borders of Israel and safeguard our security for generations to come, another show in the immunity-removal circus is set to begin,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page before his indictment.
In the same post, he announced his decision to withdraw the request for parliamentary immunity.
“I will not allow my political opponents to use this matter to interfere with the historical move I’m leading,” the PM declared on Facebook.
Mandelblit submitted the indictment in the Jerusalem District Court today shortly after Netanyahu withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity.
Netanyahu does not have to resign from his position as prime minister unless he is convicted and the conviction is upheld through the appeals process.
What are the charges?
Netanyahu is charged in connection with three cases, known as 1,000, 2,000, and 4,000. The Attorney General initially drafted the allegations in February 2019 and charged the PM on November 21 of the same year.
Case 1,000 concerns Netanyahu’s relationship with Arnon Milchan, an Israeli film producer, and James Packer, an Australian billionaire.
The attorney general’s office alleges that the PM had “received various high-value benefits, including the frequent and continuous supply of expensive goods, while at the same time undertaking actions favorable to Mr. Milchan.”
The benefits were worth $254,100. Netanyahu insists they were merely tokens of friendship and that he did not act inappropriately in exchange for them.
The attorney general declined to charge Milchan and Packer.
Case 2,000 concerns meetings between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, a businessman and the controlling shareholder of the Yedioth Ahronoth media group. The group publishes a leading Israeli newspaper.
The attorney general’s office alleges that during the meetings the two parties discussed positive changes in the media group’s press coverage of Netanyahu.
The two parties also allegedly discussed a legislative bill that would have reduced the financial damage created to Mozes’ newspaper by a rival paper, Yisrael Hayom.
Netanyahu has said the legislation concerning Israel Hayom never passed, adding that he dissolved his governing coalition in 2015 because of his opposition to it.
The attorney general decided to charge Mozes with bribery.
Case 4,000 concerns an “illegal arrangement between Mr. Netanyahu and Saul Elovitch, owner of the news and media website Walla,” according to the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office alleges that Elovitch altered press coverage on Walla in favor of Netanyahu. In return, the PM benefited Elovitch and his business.
The attorney general charged Elovitch and his wife with bribery.
Netanyahu has called the investigation an “attempted coup” driven by the left and the media. He claims to be the victim of a “witch hunt.”