Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM faces several charges of bribery and fraud and stands a chance of being indicted for them. The 71-year old politician has held positions as the Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Chairman of Likud and in 1996, was appointed as Israel’s youngest Prime Minister. His party lost elections for a second term in 1999, after which Netanyahu retired from politics for a few years. He returned to politics and served as Minister for several portfolios in the Israeli government and had a hand in improving Israeli economy during his time as Minister of Finance.

In 2009, he ran for Prime minister but lost to the opposing party but went ahead to win elections to become Prime Minister in 2013 and 2015 respectively. In 2019, there was political deadlock in Israel when leading parties were unable to form a government. Netanyahu is known to be close to Donald Trump. Netanyahu has been under investigations since December, 2016 for corruption and colluding with leading businessmen. On 21st November 2019, he was indicted on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges. Investigations have been on-going on cases the Israeli Police call “Case 1000”, “Case 2000” and “Case 4000”. Cases 1000 and 2000 are connected in that Netanyahu was suspected to have accepted favors and gifts from businessmen for favorable coverage by news outlets owned by these men. Among the accused businessmen are James Packer, an Australian Billionaire and media mogul and Arnon Milchan, an Israeli billionaire and film producer. In Case 1000, the Prime Minister and his wife Sara allegedly received gifts such as cigars, pink champagne and jewelry which are worth approximately 700,000 shekels which is $198.000 from both Arnon Michan and James Parker, all in return for tax breaks and favorable media coverage. Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is set to charge the prime minister with fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Mr. Netanyahu claims he only received gifts from his friend Arnon Milchan which was in no way meant to be a bribe. Case 2000 involved series of meetings between 2008 and 2014 that the prime minister conducted with Arnon Mozes, an Israeli businessman who owns a large share in Yedioth Ahronoth media group, a publisher of a leading Israeli newspaper, despite their strong differences. The Attorney General in a document summarizing the prime minister’s alleged crimes stated that both men discussed their mutual interests in their clandestine meetings which were to improve Mr. Netanyahu’s coverage on Yedioth Ahronoth media group while restrictions would be imposed on the Israel Hayom newspaper, thereby benefitting Arnon Mozes economically. Both men claim the allegations are false.

The Israeli police recommended that Netanyahu be charged with corruption in February, 2018 as they claimed to have enough evidence to indict him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. All parties involved have claimed that every information of their involvement are false. Netanyahu claims that the allegations are a coup attempt, witch hunt and charades, in his own words.
Part of the allegations leveled against Mr. Netanyahul in Case 4000 includes an accusation of using his position as minister of communications to promote regulatory decisions favoring Shaul Elovitch, a major shareholder in Bezeq, the leading Israeli telecom giant so that he (Netanyahu) would receive positive coverage by Walla, a news site which is owned by Elovitch.
With the emergence of these allegations of bribery, fraud and corruption, there will be significant impact on both the Israeli government, Likud party to which Mr. Netanyahu belongs and to the prime minister himself. Opposition parties have asserted that Mr. Netanyahu would have to step down if he is charged. Protests are already on-going protests against the prime minister’s continued tenure in light of the allegations laid against him and his ongoing trial. They demand that Netanyahu resigns his position as Prime minister of Israel. The protests have also been in reaction to electoral fraud, unemployment and government response to COVID-19 recession.

The whole corruption saga negatively impacted the Likud party’s chances at winning the 2019 election. The election resulted in a tie between the Likud party and the Blue and White party, even the Likud, which is the largest party in Israel took the most seats in the national elections. Mr. Netanyahu has also been accused of trying to increase his votes by negotiating a merger of Jewish Home Party and the Jewish Power party. This move has been criticized by Aipac and the American Jewish Committee in the US. Although Mr. Netanyahu has denied all the allegations laid against him, witnesses have come out to attest to his corruption. One witness claims that he was told by Mr. Netanyahu to make negative stories about the Prime Minister “disappear” in the witness’s own words. Former Walla CEO. Ilan Yeshua who is a witness also said he was allegedly told to post news stories that put Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents in bad light.

The Netanyahu trial opened on Monday in a Jerusalem court, where evidences were to be presented. In spite of the accusations against him, Mr. Netanyahu still has as many supporters. He also has a large number of dissenters. This has resulted in a great division in Israel, both politically and domestically. In all this, the Prime minister maintains his innocence, claiming the opposition were carrying out a witch hunt, ignoring testimonies and evidences that did not confirm their theories. His claims are that he is a victim of an administrative coup. Being the prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu is charged with the responsibility of forming a new government upon his election. However, because of his legal troubles, some government stakeholders met with the President, Reuven Rivlin to entreat him to nominate someone else to form the new government.

The trial opened with a speech by the chief prosecutor, Liat Ben-Ari where he described the crimes for which Mr. Netayahul was being indicted. He said in his speech that the prime minister used his position to garner favor from owners of media outlets in order to look good for re-election. Mr. Ilan Yeshua was called to the stand where he spoke of the instructions he received to post and highlight positive stories about the prime minister and his wife, Sara Netanyahu while casting their rivals in bad light. There are mixed feeling about the trial as while some believe that bringing the politician to trial was a victory for the legal system, others believe that it was unfair considering that all politicians do what Mr. Netanyahu was accused of doing. The fact is the present state of the government in light of the PM’s indictment and the people’s reaction to it further spotlights the fragile state of Israeli society.