Netanyahu to be indicted on bribery charges. Here’s what you need to know

The indictment would mark the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged with a crime.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Kfar Maccabiah, Ramat Gan on February 21, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Kfar Maccabiah, Ramat Gan on February 21, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday on criminal offenses in all three corruption cases against him. The attorney general decided to charge Netanyahu with bribery in one case alone, pending a hearing, while bringing a lesser charge of breach of trust in the other two.

The decision would mark the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister faced criminal charges. Netanyahu, who has repeatedly said that he will not step down should he be indicted, has called the charges “absurd,” saying that the prosecution’s “house of cards will soon collapse.” Likud officials have blamed the decision on pressure and “bullying” by the left.

The charges revolve around three cases, known as Case 1000, Case 2000, and Case 4000. In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving gifts and benefits from billionaire patrons in exchange for political favors. Case 2000 involves Netanyahu’s alleged agreement with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, to reduce the circulation of rival newspaper Israel Hayom and perhaps even stop it from putting out a weekend magazine edition — in return for more favorable coverage in Yedioth.

In Case 4000, considered the most serious of the three in which Netanyahu is expected to be charged with bribery, the prime minister is suspected of having promoted regulatory decisions that benefited Israeli businessman Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel’s largest telecommunications company, and who owns Israeli news site Walla!, in exchange for positive news coverage.

Here are some of the articles +972 Magazine has published on the ongoing investigations into Netanyahu’s corruption scandals, what they mean for democracy, the state of the Israeli press, and Palestinians:

  • Dahlia Scheindlin wrote about why Netanyahu’s refusal to resign is only one of the deep offenses to democracy that the investigations have come to represent. “What should be an enviable display of independent law enforcement agencies holding public representatives accountable is turning into a showcase — and possibly a harbinger — of the erosion of democratic norms in Israel,” she writes.
  • Writing about the Yedioth scandal, Shuki Tausig, who heads The Seventh Eye news watchdog site, believes Netanyahu’s shady dealings with Mozes reveal the driving force behind Israel’s biggest newspapers: profit and ideology. The type of corruption exhibited by the deal, writes Tausig, couldn’t exist in media outlets with truly independent journalists.
  • Amjad Iraqi argued that, should Netanyahu be found guilty, Israel’s post-Bibi politics portend growing misfortune for Palestinians. All leadership contenders, from the right to the center-left, have histories of espousing racist and violent views of Palestinians as being either nuisances to tolerate or threats to be destroyed.

A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the attorney general indicted Netanyahu. The attorney general only informed Netanyahu of his intention to file an indictment pending a hearing.