For the first time in Israel’s history, a sitting prime minister is accused of bribery: Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be charged with bribery, fraud and breach in three corruption cases, dubbed Cases 4000, 2000 and 1000.
The indictment comes after a four-day hearing with Netanyahu’s defense team last month, followed by weeks of intensive discussion at the attorney general’s offices.
Case 4000 is considered the most serious, and revolves around an alleged bribery deal between Netanyahu and businessman Shaul Elovich, who controlled the Bezeq telecommunications company and the Walla News site. According to the indictment, Netanyahu and Elovich engaged in a quid-pro-pro deal in which Netanyahu – as communication minister – led regulatory steps directly tied to Elovich’s businesses and interests that yielded the tycoon some $500 million.
In return, according to the indictment, Netanyahu and his wife Sara made consistent requests to alter the coverage on the Walla News website in order to serve the Netanyahus’ interests and target their opponents. Elovich allegedly pressed the editors of the website to comply with the Netanyahus’ demands. Substantial circumstantial evidence convinced Mendelblit that both Elovich and Netanyahu were aware of the quid-pro-quo, though there is no evidence of an explicit coordination of the deal.
Netanyahu’s attorneys argued that favorable coverage does not constitute a bribe and that in any case the prime minister didn’t try to skew the coverage in his favor but rather pushed for balanced coverage out of ideology. In addition, they claimed all decisions made by Netanyahu in his role as communication minister were approved by the ministry’s professional staff. Read more