Israeli Police Recommend Indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu
On Sunday, Dec. 2, Israeli police recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery and corruption on suspicion that he had eased regulations to benefit a telecommunications company in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his wife by a news website owned by the firm.
Netanyahu is said to have taken bribes from Shaul Elovitch, a business magnate who is the majority shareholder in telecommunications giant Bezeq and the owner of a news website called Walla News.
It is alleged that Netanyahu advanced regulation favoring Elovitch, resulting in a gain of $282 million for the businessman. In exchange, between 2012 and 2017, Walla News posted content favoring Netanyahu while removing past content that was critical of the Prime Minister. Netanyahu also became involved in hiring editors and writers for the publication.
Evidence that Netanyahu and Elovitch engaged in corruption was provided by former Walla News staff. Israeli police say that Walla News CEO Ilan Yeshua was crucial to the case. Elovitch had asked Yeshua to take personal responsibility for slanting coverage in favor of Netanyahu. Yeshua was also asked to destroy his cell phone, in case it contained evidence that incriminated Netanyahu and Elovitch. Yeshua reported Elovitch’s request to Israeli authorities.
Both Netanyahu and Elovitch deny any wrongdoing. In response to the police statement, Netanyahu said, "These recommendations were decided and leaked before the investigation had even begun. The police recommendations have no legal standing."
The corruption allegation, known as Case 4000, is the third such proceeding against the Prime Minister this year. In Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving around $280,000 in bribes from foreign businesspersons. Case 2000 involves allegations that Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, owner of the popular newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, made a deal in which positive coverage of Netanyahu would increase if the circulation of a rival newspaper called Israel HaYom was reduced.
It is unclear what the corruption allegations mean for Netanyahu’s political future. Should Israel’s Attorney General pursue the corruption cases against Netanyahu, the Prime Minister can stand trial without having to resign from office. However, some members of Netanyahu’s coalition have said they will leave the government if he is indicted, leading to the collapse of the government.
Israel is also set to hold parliamentary elections sometime next year. If Netanyahu survives until the election and wins the popular vote, he may be able to make the case that Israelis want him in office regardless of the allegations against him. In such an event, it is possible that Israeli authorities will drop the charges against him.
All that is clear right now is that Netanyahu has a very difficult few months ahead of him.