Israeli police have confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of having committed “fraud, breach of trust and bribes” in two corruption cases.
Netanyahu assumed office as the Prime Minister in March 2009. He is the first Israeli PM to have been born in the country. In 1996, he became the youngest person to have ever been elected as the Prime Minister of Israel. He has also served as the Finance Minister between 2002 and 2005. He is the only person, since Ben Gurion, to have be elected as the Prime Minister for a third term.
His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was plagued by similar charges of corruption. A number of scandals forced him to resign in 2009. After one bribery case was upheld by the country’s Supreme Court, he became the first former Prime Minister to be sent to jail. He served for 16 months and was released from prison in July 2017.
The investigation is considering two corruption cases against Netanyahu. The charges were confirmed when the police sought to a gag order on the ongoing talks to recruit a state witness. The Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, is reportedly in talks with police to provide evidence againt Netanyahu. The cases revolve around Netanyahu allegedly taking gifts from wealthy benefactors and attempting to sway media coverage. This is the first time Netanyahu has been publicly designated a suspect even though these allegations have floated in public previously.
Netanyahu’s office has strongly denied the accusations. They also implied that the investigation is politically motivated. The statement reads, “We completely reject the unfounded claims made against the prime minister. The campaign to change the government is under way, but it is destined to fail, for a simple reason: there won’t be anything because there was nothing.”
The first one, which has been called Case 1000, is related to his connections with Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. He allegedly received gifts worth thousands of dollars to lobby on behalf of his friend. When details became public, Netanyahu’s lawyer at the time said, “Any reasonable person knows that there is nothing remotely criminal involved when a close friend gives his friend a gift of cigars.” The second case, called Case 2000, alleges that he offered commercial favors to Arnon Mozes, a newspaper in Israel in return for positive coverage.
Our assessment is that this investigation will negatively color Netanyahu’s governance even if it does not yield in a conviction. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has already called upon Netanyahu to resign as he said the head of government cannot not serve after an indictment had been issued. This could also tarnish his image with the citizens of the country.