GP Insights

GP Insights # 194, 23 November 2019

Netanyahu indicted on corruption charges: Political crisis deepens
Sukanya Bali

What happened?

Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit indicted Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges related to corruption, on Thursday.  Netanyahu denied all allegations and called it ‘false’ and ‘politically motivated’.

Further, opposition leader Benny Gantz failed to form a coalition government by the deadline on Wednesday, pushing the country closer to a third election, in less than a year.

What is the background?

Benjamin Netanyahu the longest serving PM of Israel was indicted on charges of ‘bribery’, ‘fraud’ and ‘breach of trust’ on Thursday. The indictment was announced amidst a deepening political crisis in Israel, as leaders struggle to form a new government, after two elections within this year.   

The most serious of the allegation is Netanyahu’s deal with Shaul Elovitch of Bezek, a telecommunication giant. Netanyahu is alleged, to have granted regulatory favours to the telecom company in return for positive coverage on ‘Walla’, its news site. Another case involves a quid-pro- quo with Israel’s bestselling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

Cases against Netanyahu and his wife include reception of gifts worth thousands of dollars in return for political favours to an Israeli Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. Netanyahu has called these charges a ‘witch hunt’, and vowed to continue as the PM.

On Wednesday, political chaos deepened as the opposition leader, Benny Gantz, failed to form a government. This began a 21-day period when any member of the Knesset could form a government with a simple parliamentary majority. Israel, the only stable democracy in the middle east, is edging closer to its third elections in less than a year.

What does it mean?

Netanyahu, is the first PM to have been indicted while serving. The indictment is likely to have a negative impact on the political career of the ultra-right leader. If convicted in these cases he could face an imprisonment up to 10 years. Surely, he had been successful in implementing right-wing policies favouring Jewish communities to the dismay Arabs, but allegations on corruption charges would be taken seriously by the people of Israel.

Days ahead for Benjamin Netanyahu would be eventful and could test his political acumen as he pulls strings to remain in power.

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