Corruption Scandal: Israeli Police Recommend Prime Minister Netanyahu To Be Indicted

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been part of two corruption cases that include counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. More than a year of investigations have led the Israeli police to find sufficient evidence against their leader to indict him, leaving the decision to the attorney general as to whether or not to prosecute him.

The first case against Netanyahu is on accepting bribes in exchange for political favours, notably from Australian billionaire James Packer and Israeli born Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan. The prime minister and his wife have allegedly received bribes that have come in form of gifts such as cigars, jewellery and champagne worth up to $280,000. According to Al Jazeera, reports say Netanyahu lobbied John Kerry, former U.S. Secretary of State, on Milchan’s behalf for a 10-year U.S. visa, while Packer intends to gain permanent residency and tax status in Israel, promising to deliver extravagant gifts. Although Benjamin Netanyahu admits to having received such presents, he insists his innocence by stating that they were not in exchange for any favours and declares these allegations as “fake news” and a “witch hunt,” echoing a Trump-like response.

In the second case, the PM is alleged to have attempted to strike a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth, an influential Israeli newspaper, in which he would receive favourable coverage in exchange for ending the free distribution of the newspaper’s rival, Israel Hayom. This undermines Israel’s freedom of the press and highlights the irony of a nation that is described as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, has warned of the dangers of this attack on the freedom of the press, seeing the country’s democracy being at stake due to Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

In an address to the country on Tuesday evening, the prime minister stressed that he will not give up without a fight and focused on his strong security credentials in leading the nation. He stated, “I will continue to lead Israel with responsibility and dedication and loyalty,” later adding, “I’m sure that the truth will come to light, and I’m sure that also in the next elections I will once again win your loyalty.” This announcement of a potential indictment will further opposition calls for Netanyahu’s resignation and raises questions as to whether he can maintain his cling to power, after nearly nine years in office. A recent poll carried out by an Israeli television channel released that 60% of Israelis think Netanyahu should resign if the police recommend bribery charges.

Further criticisms of the troubled authority figure come from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as a similar circumstance arose a decade ago when the then-opposition leader, Netanyahu, called for Olmert to resign while undergoing a police investigation, stating a leader “sunk up to his neck in interrogations” could not properly govern. Perhaps Netanyahu will remember his own words and take heed. The PM must prioritize the democracy of his nation and acknowledge any wrongdoing while accepting the consequences.