Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu has remained defiant and rejected all graft allegations on Thursday. Despite being indicted on series of corruption charges, he is voting to remain as the leader in Israel.
Netanyahu rejected the allegations calling which he called “False” and “politically motivated” allegations some hours after he was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the attorney-general.
“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” said Netanyahu. “The object of the investigations was to oust the right-wing from government.”
The 70-year-old has been Israeli PM since 2009, having previously held the same position from 1996 to 1999. He is also the country’s eldest serving leader after the establishment of the State in 1948.
What was Netanyahu charged with
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that criminal charges have been filed against Netanyahu in investigation listed as cases 1000, 2000 and 4000.
- Case 1000 focuses on allegations that the duo of Netanyahu and Sarah, his wife illegally received gifts from a prominent Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, Arnon Milchan and James Packer, an Australian Billionaire.
Those gifts were reported to have included Champagne and Cigars. He was charged with fraud and breach of trust.
- Case 2000 also alleges Netanyahu of fraud and breach of trust. He was reported to have negotiated a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth, the owner of Israel’s best-selling Newspaper. He was accused of offering a legislation that would hinder the growth of a rival newspaper.
- Case 4000 alleges that Netanyahu granted regulatory favours to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for positive coverage of him and his wife on a news website controlled by the company’s former chairman. Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, as well as fraud and breach of trust, in this case.
What Netanyahu has to say
Netanyahu is rejecting all graft allegations. Reacting to the allegations, he said, “What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister”. He denounced them saying they are “false and politically motivated”.
Loyalists in Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party have accused the Israeli justice system of bias, and Netanyahu himself has argued that receiving gifts from friends was not against the law.
The veteran politician also said that the investigators “weren’t after the truth but after me”. He also accused the police and judiciary of bias in a 15-minute speech and argued that it was time for an “investigation the investigators”.
Despite intense political pressure, Netanyahu vowes to remain as Israel’s leader. “I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said. “I will not allow lies to win.”
A trial soon or later?
It is unlikely that a trial will begin soon. Rather than stand trial, Netanyahu could seek a plea. It could take many months before the cases are brought to the court.
The Knesset, Netanyahu’s allies in parliament, have said they would push to grant him parliamentary immunity from prosecution. But with Israeli politics in unprecedented turmoil, it is unclear whether such a move is even possible.
What if convicted?
Netanyahu could be sentenced to 10 years in jail and/or a fine for bribery. Fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
Israel’s political space could be in chaos
Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics for more than a decade. But both he and his main centrist rival Benny Gantz have failed to form a government after two elections, in April and September, leaving the country in political and economic stasis.
If there is no political breakthrough in the next three weeks, Israel will face yet another election, which few want.
If he is still in office as prime minister after that, Netanyahu would be under no strict legal obligation to quit. According to Israeli law, a prime minister must step down if ultimately convicted, but can stay in office throughout legal proceedings, including appeals.
It is unclear if allies – who have mostly remained loyal – will continue to stick by him.
Some may see it as a chance to emerge from beneath the shadow of a man who has been at or near the summit of Israeli politics for a generation, and who enjoys an international profile like no other Israeli politician.