Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu corruption hearings begin

October 2, 2019
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Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit seeks to charge Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in three separate cases.

Netanyahu himself will not be present at the hearings and will instead be represented by his lawyers.

The process is expected to last four days. The prime minister requested the hearings be broadcast live as he has “nothing to hide”. The attorney general dismissed the request and said the purpose of the hearing was to convince legal authorities and not the public.

The accusations

The first investigation, known as Case 1,000, accuses the prime minister and his family of accepting expensive gifts, including expensive cigars, champagne, and jewelry, worth an estimated 700,000 shekels (€185,000 or $200,00) from billionaires in exchange for financial and personal favors.

In the second investigation, Case 2,000, Netanyahu is said to have struck a deal with the owner of critical newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth to improve coverage about him in exchange for legislation that would weaken a rival paper.

The most serious charge, known as Case 4,000, similarly alleges that Netanyahu offered Israel’s largest telecommunications provider favorable policies in exchange for positive news coverage.

Mandelblit’s long list of the prime minister’s purported media oversteps include an accusation that he requested the publication of a story about his wife attending a Mariah Carey concert and meeting the singer.

Netanyahu denies all allegations and has classified them as a “witch hunt.”

A day of setbacks

The hearings begin on the same day that Netanyahu may be forced to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he is not able of form a government with his challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist party.

Netanyahu had planned to meet with Gantz on Wednesday in talks he called a “last effort,” but his rival canceled the appointment, citing a lack of progress in talks for a national unity government.

If Netanyahu fails to deliver, the president could then offer Gantz a chance to form a government, or he could ask parliament to vote on a candidate.

(Reuters)

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