The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is facing corruption charges after a two-year investigation.
This would make him the second Prime Minister of Israel to be indicted if the attorney general continues with his decision, after his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was sentenced and charged with corruption back in 2009. Prosecutors would have to go ahead with a pre-indictment hearing before he is formally charged. A final hearing is scheduled for after the elections on whether the charges will go ahead or not.
Mr Netanyahu is facing fraud, one count of bribery, and three counts of breach of trust. He has allegedly received gifts from wealthy businessmen in return for favours; as well as gifts worth about £199,200 from Israeli-born Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan and Australian James Packer in exchange for help with US visa and tax breaks. He is also alleged to seek positive press coverage from Shaul Elovitch’s news site, Walla, and in return would execute regulatory decisions which would benefit the news giant greatly.
Opposition members have been quick to call for the Prime Minister to retire. Netanyahu was quick to call the announcement ‘outrageous’ and a ‘witch hunt’ which would ‘collapse like a house of cards’, hinting that he would not step down from his post nor walk away from the upcoming elections. There is currently nothing stopping Mr Netanyahu from getting elected and staying in power while he fights his criminal charges.
Israeli elections are scheduled for 9 April this year and Mr Netanyahu is running for re-election in a bid to become the longest serving Israeli Prime Minister in history. With elections less than a month away, Mr Netanyahu sees this as propaganda which the opposition looks to use in order to swing the election pendulum in their favour. Recent opinion polls have shown that Mr Netanyahu and his right wing party Likud look to be heading for a loss in the upcoming elections. He faces stiff competition from a newly announced centrist alliance of ex-army chief Benny Gantz and former journalist Yair Lapid.