Corruption charges announced against Netanyahu, weeks before election

The Prime Minister, who cut short a trip to Moscow in anticipation of Mandelblit’s decision, plans to make a televised statement at 8pm local time.


Netanyahu, who is running for his fourth consecutive term as prime minister, denies any wrongdoing and has vowed not to resign over the allegations.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party described the reported charges as «political persecution».

In the long-running investigations, he is suspected of wrongfully accepting gifts, including cigars, champagne and jewellery, from wealthy businessmen and dispensing favours in alleged bids for favourable coverage by a newspaper and a website.

Mandelblit’s decision covered three separate investigations, though they followed a clear pattern.

In the first, the police said that the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, an expatriate Israeli, aided by the Australian billionaire James Packer, sent expensive cigars, jewellery and Champagne worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, and that Netanyahu in return promoted legislation that could benefit Milchan, though it was blocked by the Finance Ministry.

Australian billionaire James Packer was among those who allegedly gave expensive gifts to Netanyahu in return for favours.

Australian billionaire James Packer was among those who allegedly gave expensive gifts to Netanyahu in return for favours.Credit:Sahlan Hayes

In the second, Netanyahu was accused of discussing with the publisher of Yediot Ahronot, one of Israel’s biggest newspapers, the possibility of a deal for favourable coverage: He would press a competing newspaper, Israel Hayom, to curtail its free circulation, and in return Yediot Ahronot would treat Netanyahu more kindly. Israel Hayom is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the American billionaire casino owner who is a devoted supporter of Netanyahu’s.

The deal was never completed, investigators said.

In the third case, the police said that Netanyahu had pushed regulatory actions through the Communications Ministry, which he controlled at the time, that were enormously lucrative to Shaul Elovitch, the principal owner of the Bezeq telecommunications giant. In return, Elovitch arranged for fawning coverage of Netanyahu and his family in Walla news, a popular website owned by Bezeq.


For the past two years, as the corruption cases were the subject of intense news coverage, Netanyahu suffered relatively little harm in the polls.

He remains highly esteemed — even by many who have grown weary of his now-familiar flaws and vices — as the only Israeli politician with the stature and experience to lead a lonely democracy in a hostile region and represent its interests skilfully on the world stage.

He has worked hard to prepare his devoted right-wing followers for this moment, assailing the investigation as a “witch hunt” choreographed by the news media in cahoots with his enemies on the left.

But as an indictment became increasingly certain, he grew more strident and divisive, alienating even some of the right-leaning voters whose support he needs to win another term.

That, in turn, has bolstered his leading opponent, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, the former army chief of staff, and Gantz’s argument that Israel needs a clean, fresh start.

Reuters, New York Times

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