Israel takes on its leaders in the war on corruption

As dire as the Prime Minister’s legal predicament seems, he can be relatively confident of seeing out his term


Benjamin Netanyahu is now widely expected to become the second Israeli prime minister to be indicted on criminal charges.

Police and Justice Ministry sources confirmed to the Israeli media this week that they now believe they have sufficient evidence to indict the Prime Minister in two cases and are investi­gating additional allega­tions.

A third indictment is expected against his wife, Sara, for alleged misuse of public funds at the family’s residences.

The increasing legal pressure on Prime Min­ister Netanyahu is not expected to force his res­ignation in the near future, however.

Last week’s decision by his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, to become a witness for the state and the police’s announcement about his likely indict­ment were dismissed last Friday by the Prime Minister as “background noise”.

Meanwhile, his cabinet colleagues are not about to demand he step down – at least for the time being.

Mr Harow, who worked for the Prime Minister for 10 years and, among other roles, was in charge of maintaining Mr Netanyahu’s relations with overseas donors, signed the state witness agree­ment on Friday.

He was facing an indictment of his own over allegations of fraud in the sale of his own consultancy company. Under the terms of the agreement, he will not be jailed, instead getting a suspended sentence and a fine.

He has assisted police in the investigations into allegations that Mr Netanyahu and his wife received expensive gifts over many years from wealthy businessmen, and helped with the probe into the Prime Minis­ter’s dealings with Israeli media tycoon Arnon Mozes.

Police are hoping to get additional evidence from Mr Harow on the submarine bribery case in which the Prime Minister’s personal attorney, David Shimron, is a suspect.

He may also supply fresh informa­tion on the Bezeq security fraud case, in which Mr Netanyahu’s former cam­paign manager, Shlomo Filber, is also a prime suspect.

According to the Justice Ministry’s spokesperson, the Prime Minister is not a suspect in either of these inves­tigations.

The Israeli media has reported that police investigators have decided to rec­ommend that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblitt indict the Prime Minister in two cases involving “bribery, fraud and breach of trust”.

On Friday afternoon, Mr Netanyahu posted a short video on his Facebook page saying: “I want to say to all Isra­el’s citizens: I’m not interested in all the background noise. I’m continuing to work for you.”

As things stand, the Prime Minister can continue doing so for quite a while. The police have yet to wrap up the investigations, and even when they do, the Attorney-General is expected to take months to review the evidence before reaching his conclu­sion.

Assuming he goes along with the police recommendation, Mr Netanya­hu will still have the right to a hearing before the cases reach court. Most legal experts expect this process to take at least a year.

Even after being indicted, Israeli law allows the Prime Minister to remain in office until a conviction.

None of the party leaders in Mr Net­anyahu’s current coalition have indi­cated that they plan to force him out, as happened to Ehud Olmert nine years ago. Jewish Home leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that “Israel needs stability and we are supporting this national government”.

Likud ministers have also expressed their support for the Prime Minister.

As dire as the Prime Minister’s legal predicament seems, he can be relatively confident of seeing out his term.

On Tuesday, 10 members of Yisrael Beiteinu, including former deputy min­ister Faina Kirschenbaum, were indict­ed on charges of bribery and fraud over a massive kickback scheme allegedly orchestrated by Ms Kirschenbaum.

Another habitué of police probes is Interior Minister Arye Deri, who has served one prison sentence for bribe-taking.

Mr Deri and his wife, Yafa, were ques­tioned this week by police over allega­tions of fraud and tax evasion in real estate deals and misuse of public funds by an NGO founded by Mrs Deri.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive