PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

Courtesy of JTA

Benjamin Netanyahu, seen on Nov. 12, 2019, is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to be indicted.

 

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged in three corruption cases, marking the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been indicted.

The charges, announced on Nov. 21 by the Justice Ministry and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, include bribery and breach of public trust.

Netanyahu has denied the charges and called the investigations against him a “witch hunt.”

In a televised address after the indictments were announced, he asserted that the charges are an “attempted coup against a prime minister.”

He has 30 days to request that the Knesset grant him parliamentary immunity in order to avoid a criminal trial. Government ministers are required to resign if faced with a criminal charge, but not the prime minister.

The most serious charge is for bribery in what is known as Case 4000, which alleges that Shaul Elovitch, majority shareholder of Bezeq, received political favors for the Israeli telecommunications giant in return for favorable coverage of Netanyahu on the Walla! news website owned by the company. Conviction on the charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Netanyahu was indicted for breach of public trust in two separate cases.

In Case 1000, he is accused of accepting illegal gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, including Cuban cigars and pink champagne. The gifts totaled about $200,000. In return, Netanyahu allegedly helped secure a U.S. visa for Milchan and supported a law that would give tax breaks to the billionaire if he moved back to Israel.

In Case 2000, the prime minister allegedly advanced a law that would have hurt the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, funded by the U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, in exchange for positive coverage from the popular general circulation Yediot Acharonot.

Netanyahu defended himself against the charges during a four-day pre-indictment hearing in October.

The Justice Ministry also announced that Yediot’s publisher, Arnon Mozes, as well as Elovitch and his wife, Iris, will be charged with bribery.

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