בנימין נתניהו
Benjamin Netanyahu with his legal team in court on Monday
Photo: Oren Ben Hakin
Benjamin Netanyahu with his legal team in court on Monday

Q&A: What are Netanyahu's legal and political woes?

PM appeared in Jerusalem District Court on Monday to face charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust as president was beginning talks over who should lead next government after in wake of inconclusive election on March 23

Reuters |
Published: 04.05.21 , 10:17
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's legal and political troubles were playing out simultaneously in Jerusalem on Monday, at his corruption trial and in the president's residence.
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  • Judges ordered Netanyahu to be in Jerusalem District Court on Monday for the prosecution's opening argument on three cases involving charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
    Meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin will begin talks over who should lead the next government after a fourth inconclusive election on March 23.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Benjamin Netanyahu with his legal team in court on Monday
    (Photo: Oren Ben Hakin)

    How can Netanyahu be on trial and remain prime minister?

    Under Israeli law, a prime minister is under no obligation to stand down unless convicted. No other minister is protected in this way, so there are legal and political reasons why Netanyahu wants to stay at the top.
    Netanyahu has pleaded not guilty. He contends he is the victim of a politically orchestrated "witch hunt" by the left and media to oust him, and that receiving gifts from friends is not against the law.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    הפגנת תמיכה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    הפגנת תמיכה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    A supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the courthouse on Monday
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

    Could he go to jail?

    Bribery charges carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine. Fraud and breach of trust are punishable by up to three years in jail.

    What's it all about?

    Case 4000
    Prosecutors allege Netanyahu granted regulatory favors worth around 1.8 billion shekels (about $500 million) to Bezeq Telecom Israel.
    In return, prosecutors say, he sought positive coverage of himself and his wife, Sara, on a news website controlled by the company's former chairman, Shaul Elovitch.
    Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Elovitch and his wife, Iris, have been charged with bribery and obstruction of justice. The couple deny wrongdoing.
    Case 1000
    Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust over allegations that he and his wife wrongfully received almost 700,000 shekels ($210,000) worth of gifts from Arnon Milchan, an American-Israeli Hollywood producer, and Australian billionaire businessman James Packer.
    Prosecutors said gifts included champagne and cigars and that Netanyahu helped Milchan with his business interests. Packer and Milchan face no charges.
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    James Packer and Arnon Milchan
    James Packer and Arnon Milchan
    James Packer and Arnon Milchan
    (Photo: EPA)

    Case 2000
    Netanyahu allegedly negotiated a deal with Arnon Mozes, owner of Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet, for better coverage in return for legislation to slow the growth of a rival newspaper.
    Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust. Mozes has been charged with offering a bribe, and denies wrongdoing.
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    ארנון מוזס
    ארנון מוזס
    Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes in court on Monday
    (Photo: Oren Ben Hakin)

    Will a verdict come soon?

    Unlikely. The trial could take years. But proceedings could be cut short if Netanyahu seeks a plea deal.

    Do Israelis still care?

    Yes. The corruption case was a polarizing issue in recent elections.
    Thousands of demonstrators gathered weekly outside his official residence and across Israel under the banner of "Crime Minister," demanding he quit.
    But his right-wing voter base sees "King Bibi" as strong on security and an influential voice for Israel abroad.
    Meanwhile, Israel is facing unprecedented political paralysis, an economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus, a new U.S. administration hoping to revive nuclear talks with Iran and a looming International Criminal Court war crimes investigation.
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