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[Israeli Politics 101] Making sense of the four legal cases against PM Benjamin Netanyahu

How did one of Israel’s most successful and long-time prime ministers end up facing the imminent possibility of being criminally indicted for corruption including bribery and fraud charges? It’s not an easy web to untangle, but here is a background composite of what contributed to these astounding developments:

In the investigation labeled” Case 1000,” the prime minister is accused of having received gifts from wealthy and powerful individuals, one of them being an Israeli Hollywood producer and another being a casino mogul, who in exchange, received personal favors or special status, despite the fact that  Netanyahu denies the personal gifts/return favors connection.

In yet another investigation labeled “Case 2000,” it is alleged that Netanyahu traded regulatory favors to Bezeq, Israel’s leading telecommunications company in exchange for favorable media coverage on their Walla news website also owned by them.  

These charges of fraud and breach of trust extend to his wife Sara who is also being accused of improper use of public funds at her personal residence and also having received personal gifts which are illegal for government officials and their family to accept.

Two other cases include “Case 3000” and “Case 4000.” Case 3000 centers around the sale of German submarines to Israel through corrupt means including a conflict of interest as Netanyahu’s personal lawyer became the legal representative of the accused businessman who allegedly bribed government officials to facilitate the negotiation of the sale.

Case 4000, concerns Israel’s director-general  Minister of Communications, personally appointed by Netanyahu,  illegally allowing Bezeq to buy shares in Israel’s satellite cable provider  YES.

All of these legal woes come at a time when Bibi is fighting desperately to finish out his political term amidst a growing sea of discontent amongst many secular Israelis who are fed up with the Netanyahu government coalition which always grants too much power to the ultra-orthodox, allowing them to control much of Israeli day to day life as they would prefer.  The lack of Jewish pluralism as held by many other streams of the faith, which are not recognized as valid expressions has certainly helped to fuel the desire for early elections and a change in the status quo.

Consequently, Netanyahu remains vulnerable to lose his power and his control which he has enjoyed off and on for the last few decades.  He was elected prime minister in 1996 and served until 1999. He returned to that role in 2009 and has been there ever since. But as these charges continue to hound Netanyahu, the once beloved and respected Prime Minister could be headed for sure political demise.  

Although he continues to tout his innocence and forcefully state how he is merely a victim of his political enemies and rivals, multiple recommendations have been made by the Israeli police chief to indict within the next few weeks. This comes before the already scheduled April 9th elections and will surely impact the political landscape quite dramatically.

Back in October of this year, HaAretz, one of Israel’s well-known daily newspapers wrote: “The seriousness with which top politicians are handling the idea that Netanyahu could be immune from prosecution demonstrates how Israel has gone off the rails.” (Yossi Verter, October 12, 2018)

Likewise, Bloomberg Opinion stated, “Many of Netanyahu’s critics see this as golden opportunity to bring him down. But I think they are too optimistic. For one thing, the prime minister is popular, more so than any of his key rivals. For another, it is not certain that he will be indicted before the election. And finally, even if he is, that may not stop him from running and winning.” (Zev Chafets, December 11, 2018)

But that was then, and this is now. It all rests in the hands of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit who will make the final decision whether or not to indict Netanyahu. Undoubtedly, Israel’s citizens are waiting anxiously to see the outcome, because, for them, this may end up being the most important election in decades – one which could turn the tide and direction of the country in a massive way.

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