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Israel PM Netanyahu to be charged with bribery, breach of trust

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Israel’s attorney general announced his intention to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with corruption and bribery in three separate criminal cases Thursday, two months before national elections.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving gifts and positive news coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits from the government.

Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney general, announced his intention to make the indictment on Thursday. The next step is a court hearing, according to The Times of Israel (TOI) and Barak Ravid, a reporter at Israel’s Channel 13 news.

Netanyahu and Avichai Mandelblit, currently Israel’s attorney general, at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in February 2015.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Here’s what the cases are:

  • “Case 1,000,” which concerns allegations that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, had accepted one million shekels ($276,000) worth of Champagne, cigars, flights, and hotel rooms from an Israeli movie producer and an Australian casino mogul, according to TOI.
  • “Case 2,000,” which regards allegations that Netanyahu tried to broker a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which the newspaper covered Netanyahu favorably, and the government would limit its rival’s circulation in exchange.
  • “Case 4,000,” in which authorities allege that Netanyahu granted regulatory benefits to Bezeq, a telecommunications company, in exchange for positive coverage of Netanyahu by Bezeq’s subsidiary news site Walla.

Former journalists at Walla have testified to being pressured to refrain from negatively covering Netanyahu’s government, The Guardian reported. Israeli police last December that Netanyahu be charged with bribery over “Case 4,000.”

Netanyahu in Warsaw, Poland, on February 14, 2019.
Associated Press

Netanyahu had previously asked Mandelblit to delay his indictment announcement until after the country’s April 9 elections, but Mandelblit refused, TOI reported.

Netanyahu’s Likud party also tried to get the Israeli High Court to block Mandelblit’s announcement of the indictments, which was previously expected to take place on Thursday, Haaretz reported.

Likud called the court’s decision “regrettable” and characterized the indictments as “left’s blatant intervention in the election,” according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 27, 2019.
ReutersSputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

He also cut short his trip to Moscow this week, where he is discussing issues about Syria and the Middle East with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Israeli media speculated on Wednesday that it was to prepare for Mandelblit’s indictment.

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