AG charges Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust

November 22, 2019 by Arye Green -TPS
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Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has announced his dramatic decision to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, making him the first prime minister in Israeli history to be indicted while in office.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference of the Israeli Television News Company in the Jerusalem International Convention Center (ICC) on Sept. 3, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Shaul Elovitch, owner of Bezeq and Walla! and his wife, Iris, were also indicted for bribery and obstruction of justice. Yediot Ahronot owner Arnon (Noni) Mozes was also indicted for bribery.

The decision to indict Netanyahu came after nearly a year of deliberations by Mandelblit, and a pre-indictment hearing, in which Netanyahu’s legal counsel tried to convince Mandelblit not to press charges.

The harsh charges against Netanyahu could significantly influence his chances of staying in power after nearly 10 years as prime minister. The mandate to form a government currently resides in the hands of the Knesset, which is now less likely to nominate him to make another attempt to establish a government, after he has failed to do so twice.

The Knesset will vote on whether to waive the immunity which Netanyahu enjoys as a Member of Knesset (MK), a lengthy process which could take up to a month.

In his announcement of the indictment, Mandelblit said that he has a duty to enforce the law and that his decisions were not affected by public opinion.

“Law enforcement is not optional. I made the decision with a heavy heart, but also whole-heartedly… It is not a question of politics. It is our duty… We were not swayed by slander from all sides, and acted only to enforce the law,” he said.

“Even after being indicted, the prime minister, just like anyone else, remains innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutors must prove his guilt in court, and only the court can convict him at the end of the day. If it is determined that the prime minister did commit the offences attributed to him in the indictment, then it is a serious act,” he added.

Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu for bribery and breach of trust in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla! Affair, for breach of public trust in Case 2000, the Yediot Ahronot-Yisrael Hayom Affair, and for breach of trust in Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair.

Case 4000 alleges that Shaul Elovitch, former owner of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq and of the Walla! news portal, pressured his CEO, Ilan Yeshua, to arrange positive coverage of Netanyahu on Walla! in exchange for the prime minister advancing regulations that would benefit Elovitch. The regulatory benefits were worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq, of which Elovitch was a major shareholder at the time.

Case 2000 alleges bribery between Netanyahu and Yedioth Aharonoth owner Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu supposedly offered to use his power to hinder the influence of Yedioth’s main rival, Israel Hayom, through legislation that would minimize Israel Hayom’s distribution, in return for Yedioth’s reduction of negative coverage of Netanyahu.

Case 1000 involves expensive gifts that Netanyahu allegedly received from wealthy supporters, particularly from Israeli-born movie producer Arnon Milchan, possibly in return for favours.

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