Israel PM Netanyahu accused of corruption

Israeli police released a statement saying they believe they have “sufficient evidence” to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery and breach of trust in two separate cases.

In a defiant TV address on February 14, Netanyahu said the allegations were baseless and “will end in nothing.” He added that during his time in office, he has faced at least 15 enquiries and investigations which went nowhere. “All of those attempts resulted in nothing, and this time again they will come to nothing,” he said.

In what is seen as a fresh blow to the PM, on February 21, Israeli media reported that a former aide of Netanyahu’s, Schlomo Filber, has agreed to provide testimony on behalf of the state. Filber, a former director general of the communications ministry, was arrested on Sunday 18 and is being held with executives from Bezeq Telecom. Police suspect that Bezeq gave the PM positive coverage on a news website in return for benefits, allegations that Bezeq and Netanyahu have denied.

The allegations

After a 14-month long investigation (Jerusalem Post), Israeli police announced on Tuesday they believe they have enough evidence to indict Netanyahu in two separate cases called Case 1000, the “gifts affair” and Case 2000, the “Yediot Aharanot Affair.”

  • Case 1000, the “gifts affair,” revolves around claims that Netanyahu received gifts worth at least a million shekels (approximately $280,000) from Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer from 2007 and 2016. Police also said that Milchan, a producer of films like Fight Club and The Revenant, should face charges.
  • In exchange for the gifts from Milchan, police said Netanyahu tried to promote a tax break that would benefit Milchan, though the Finance Ministry blocked the move.
  • Case 2000, the “Yediot Aharonot affair,” involved allegations that Netanyahu asked the publisher of an Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, for positive coverage. In return, Netanyahu is alleged to have offered help in reining in a rival publication. Police said the editor of the paper, Arnon Mozes, should also face charges.

Netanyahu’s reaction

Netanyahu, 68, widely known as “Bibi”, is currently in his second stint as prime minister – a role he served for a total of 12 years. Israel’s next election is scheduled for late 2019; if he wins, he will be Israel’s longest-serving leader. (Read more: a Reuters analysis on what next for Netanyahu

  • “I am certain, I am certain, that the truth will be revealed, and I am certain that at the next elections, which will be held on schedule, I will earn your trust again, with God’s help,” he said.
  • Speaking on Wednesday (Guardian), he described the police report as “full of holes, like Swiss cheese.” He added that “the coalition is stable”.

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