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Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel’s PM on the Brink of the Abyss

Israel. Rarely has there been a single word that conjures up such a divisive opinion. And it continues to impress in that regard. Current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party and leader of the Knesset coalition, is finding himself not only on the brink of a war with regional power Iran but deeply embroiled in two corruption cases and named in two more.

The main cases, named Case 1000 and Case 2000, go back to 2016 when Netanyahu received gifts of champagne, cigars, jewellery, and clothing, in exchange for favours. Israeli billionaire and Hollywood film producer, Arnon Milchon, reportedly sent Mr Netanyahu gifts in exchange for his lobbying to then US Secretary of State John Kerry for a ten-year visa. In the same case, Australian billionaire James Packer reportedly sent Mr Netanyahu gifts in exchange for permanent residence in Israel as well as tax status. Netanyahu has stated that he accepted the gifts but denies granting any favours in return. The second case, named Case 2000, is centred around the media. Arnon Mozes, of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, allegedly offered Mr Netanyahu favourable coverage in exchange for pushing through legislation that would limit the circulation of a rival publication, Israel Hayom. Currently, Israel Hayom is a freely circulated publication and the intended legislation would force it to become a paid for publication, thereby limiting its circulation and reducing its rivalry with Yedioth Ahronoth. Prime Minister Netanyahu is reported to say that he “never intended to seal a deal” with Mr Mozes. The Israeli leader is also mentioned in two more corruption cases, Case 3000 and 4000 respectively, but is not the subject of investigation in either. Case 3000 revolves around allegations surrounding the tender of a $2bn contract between the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp over the production and sale of submarines and naval attack vessels. David Sharon, a former bureau defence minister for Mr Netanyahu, has been arrested over charges of accepting bribes and former Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has claimed the Mr Netanyahu is responsible for urging the cancellation of a previous tender to make way for ThyssenKrupp.


Case 4000 is a little more complicated. It revolves around Bezeq, the national telephone company, and the Communications Ministry. Avi Berger, the former head of the communications ministry, is said to have pushed for reforms in the communications arena that would have harmed Bezeq. Mr Netanyahu then fired Mr Berger and replaced him with one Avi Shlomo Filber, who is charged with providing Bezeq with favourable treatment. Although the PM is not directly involved, he could be charged with providing false declarations as he has made conflicting statements regarding his friendship with Mr Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq and a close friend of Netanyahu’s for over two decades. Overall, Mr Netanyahu is in a precarious situation. On Tuesday 13 February 2018, the Israeli police recommended that the courts indict him on charges of corruption. This makes Netanyahu an Israeli PM at the centre of corruption investigations, another in a long list that stretches unbroken back to 1996. His right-wing party, Likud, stands firmly behind him while all parties to the left of him stand united in condemnation. His coalition, on the other hand, could prove to be less stable. His finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, has stated that he has no further comments other than “it is up to the Attorney General [Avechai Mandelblit]”. However, the education minister, Naftali Bennett, had a harsher verdict and is quoted as saying that Netanyahu has “not lived up to the standard” and that he personally “trust the police” to get the job done. At a moment when international relations are at its most tense in over a decade, with the first Israeli fighter jet to be downed since 1983, by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, and an increase in warlike rhetoric between Netanyahu and the Shiite-axis of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, now is not the time for Israel to be embroiled in another corruption scandal. With rampant international condemnation for Israeli foreign policy, and especially for the Netanyahu’s [Israeli First Lady Sara Netanyahu is under investigation for misappropriation of public funds], the PM’s words of “everything I did was for the benefit of the State” ring hollow. At this point in time, all things considered, Benjamin Netanyahu can do a lot more for the State of Israel.

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