Israel Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday announced his intention to file criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for one count of bribery and three counts of breach of trust.
The press release emphasized that before a final decision to file charges was reached, Netanyahu’s lawyer would be given a hearing before the Attorney General as required under Israeli law.
Mandelbilt was appointed by Netanyahu in 2016. The charges are the result of a criminal investigation by the Attorney General that began in December 2016 followed in June 2017 by a public investigation by the Israel Securities Authority.
In the first case, Case 1000, Mandelbilt alleges Netanyahu received 1 million shekels (approximately USD $275,000) in gifts from an overseas billionaire in exchange for advancing a tax break which would have benefited the businessman.
The second case, Case 2000, alleges Netanyahu negotiated with Arnon Moses, the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth, to limit the circulation of a rival newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage. The Attorney General also intends to indict Moses for bribery in connection with the case.
In the last and largest case, Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of promoting regulatory changes valued at 1 billion shekels (about $275 million) on behalf of Bezeq, an Israeli telecom company, in exchange for positive press in Walla, a site owned by Saul Elovitch, Bezeq’s primary shareholder. At the time of the alleged deal, Netanyahu was also serving as Minister of Communications. The Attorney General also plans to indict Elovitch for bribery.
Charges will not be filed until Netanyahu’s lawyers appear before the Attorney General, which is not expected until after next month’s elections. The announcement comes at a particularly inconvenient time for Netanyahu, whose Likud party had hoped to retain its position as the largest party in the Israeli Parliament during the elections.