Jerusalem: Israel’s attorney general intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges. Netanyahu faces possible charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three cases, the BBC reported on Thursday. The Prime Minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage. Netanyahu, who faces an election, said in a TV address that the case would “collapse like a house of cards”.
In a defiant broadcast, he repeated his assertion that he is the victim of a left-wing “witch-hunt” intended to topple him ahead of the closely contested election on April 9. A final hearing, probably after the election, will determine whether the charges go forward. The Prime Minister will have an opportunity to make his case then.
Netanyahu is set to be charged with fraud and breach of trust for accepting expensive gifts — including cigars, pink champagne and jewellery worth $264,100 — from an Israeli-born Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan and the Australian billionaire James Packer. The gifts from Milchan are alleged to have been in return for help with a US visa and tax breaks.
Milchan and Packer face no charges and have denied any wrongdoing. In two other cases, Netanyahu is accused of trying to get more favourable press coverage for himself. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says he is considering charges of fraud and breach of trust in both, and bribery in one of them. The most serious case is seen as that involving media mogul Shaul Elovitch, controller of Israel’s largest telecom company, Bezeq.
Netanyahu is accused of seeking favourable coverage from an Elovitch-owned news site in return for regulatory decisions that would benefit the media mogul. Elovitch, himself facing legal proceedings, has strongly denied any wrongdoing.