Israel: Police Recommending Bribery, Fraud Charges Against PM Netanyahu, Wife

Published: 03 December 2018

Benjamin Netanyahu US State DepartmentIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Wikicommons, U.S. State Department)

By Alex Cooper

Israeli authorities said Sunday there is enough evidence to charge Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, with bribery and fraud, Reuters reported.

Netanyahu is accused of assisting Bezeq Telecom Israel, the country’s leading telecommunications company, in a merger attempt in exchange for more favorable news coverage on the company’s news website Walla, in what is known as Case 4000.

Netanyahu’s assistance was allegedly worth $280 million to Shaul Elovitch, a Bezeq majority shareholder and family friend. Authorities also recommended Elovitch face charges of bribery and financial crime, according to CNN.

Sunday’s statement is just the latest in a series of allegations that have dogged the Netanyahus for the past 18 months.

Police cite evidence in two other separate cases linking Netanyahu to alleged fraud, bribery and breach of trust. His wife has already been formally charged with fraud and breach of trust by prosecutors in a fourth case involving almost $100,000 worth of meals she had delivered to the couple’s home, CNN reported.

The prime minister, however, has yet to be charged with anything. The decision on whether to indict him lies with Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

According to the Washington Post, police said Sunday that “Netanyahu and his associates intervened in a blatant and ongoing manner, sometimes even daily, in the content published by the Walla News website and sought to influence the appointment of senior employees (editors and reporters).”

Netanyahu says the allegations are bogus. “It’s clear for everybody to see the transparent, petty timing of the publication of the predetermined recommendations, the deliberate leaks, the tainted process and the false allegations about me and my wife,” Reuters quoted Netanyahu as saying.

“Only recently, police recommendations in cases against other public figures were rejected by the relevant authorities. I am certain that after considering the matters the same conclusion will be reached in this case as well,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

In a second case, Netanyahu allegedly received more than $280,000 worth of cigars, champagne, jewelry and other gifts from overseas businessmen between 2007 to 2016. In a third, he has been accused of trying to limit the circulation of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s competition in exchange for better coverage of himself, according to CNN.

Opposition figures in the Israeli government have called for Netanyahu to resign in the midst of the allegations and a crumpling governing coalition.

“A person with such a sick obsession with what the media says about him must not lead the State of Israel,” said Avi Gabbay, chair of the opposition Zionist Union party.