Three months after Israeli police recommended that the country’s attorney general pursue charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his alleged involvement in “Bezeq Walla Affair”, it appears an indictment is finally being handed down on Thursday, much to the longtime leader’s chagrin.
Since Netanyahu and his wife have become embroiled in multiple scandals over the past few years, seemingly all of which have yielded recommendations of prosecution, let us pause a moment for a quick refresher on the most serious allegations. The crux of the case is that Netanyahu and his wife accepted bribes from Shaul Elovitch, the owner of Israel’s largest telecoms firm, Bezeq. Elovitch also owns the “Walla” news website. The prime minister crossed a line when he allegedly fired Communications Ministry Director-General Avi Berger and hired ex-Netanyahu campaign manager Shlomo Filber in a bid to help guarantee special treatment for Elovitch and his companies. In exchange, Netanyahu and his wife purportedly struck a deal with Elovitch for favorable coverage on his news website.
In addition to the bribery and breach of trust charges stemming from Bezeq-Walla, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said Thursday that he intends to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in two other cases. All charges are pending a hearing where Netanyahu will be given a chance to respond, according to Haaretz.
The Israeli Shekel dropped on the news.
The indictments, which followed a three-year long investigation, mark the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted, and come just six weeks before a general election (though Netanyahu is far from the first Israeli politician to face serious criminal charges).
A brief explainer of the charges can be found below:
Courtesy of Haaretz
In a last-ditch effort to block the announcement, Netanyahu’s Likud party petitioned the High Court on Thursday and put them off until after the April 9 election, but Justice Minister Mendelblit rebuffed this request, citing the “principle of equality before the law.”
Likud party leaders slammed the indictment as a “political hit job” and have claimed that the case is a “house of cards” that will soon collapse. Which brings us to our next point: Though Netanyahu has been hurt by the scandal, he still remains immensely popular in Israel. While the charges certainly aren’t good, they are a political obstacle that he can still surmount.