JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Thursday his intent to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a series of corruption charges. The decision comes after more than two years of investigations and will significantly affect Israel's national elections on April 9.
But what exactly is Netanyahu accused of?
Israeli police have recommended charging Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases – Case 4000, Case 1000, and Case 2000.
Case 4000 Breakdown
Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla Affair, is considered the most serious of the three cases. Prime Minister Netanyahu is suspected of having a quid pro quo relationship from 2012 to 2017 with Shaul Elovitch, the main shareholder of Israel's leading telecommunications company "Bezeq." Netanyahu is accused of giving Elovitch favorable government policies in exchange for positive coverage of the Netanyahu family on Bezeq's "Walla! News."
Netanyahu allegedly fired Communications Ministry director-general Avi Berger and replaced him with ex-campaign manager Shlomo Filber to ensure that government policies favored Elovitch. Filber is accused of approving a highly profitable merger between Bezeq and Yes, a major television company in Israel.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are accused of then directing Walla! News to cover their family in a positive light.
Filber has since turned state's witness against the prime minister and said Netanyahu directed him to deceive the Communications, Finance, and Justice ministries about his activities in Elovitch's interests.
Netanyahu denies the charges, arguing that the Bezeq-Yes merger was approved by the bureaucracy and that Walla did not give him positive coverage.
"The accusations of bribery are ridiculous," a statement on behalf of Netanyahu said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu never received anything from or gave anything to Elovitch. The coverage on Walla! was negative and intensified due to the elections. Every decision regarding Bezeq was approved by the responsible regulators and the prime minister acted flawlessly, as determined by the justice ministry in an official document."
Police say they believe there is enough evidence to charge Netanyahu and his wife Sara with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. They also recommended charges be brought against Elovitch, members of his family and members of his Bezeq management team.
If the accusations against Netanyahu in Case 4000 are true, Attorney General Mandelblit could indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Case 1000 Breakdown
Case 1000, also called the Illegal Gifts Affair, involves accusations that Netanyahu received illicit gifts from international business moguls Arnon Milchan and James Packer in exchange for favors for more than a decade.
The Jerusalem Post reports that an investigation revealed evidence that Netanyahu allegedly influenced government policy to benefit his associates, specifically Milchan. Netanyahu allegedly tried to pass a law that would reward Milchan with millions of shekels in tax exemptions as a returning Israeli citizen. The Israeli police said former finance minister Yair Lapid or his team blocked the law because it was against Israel's interests.
Netanyahu is suspected of helping Milchan renew his visa to the US and a number of business ventures.
Netanyahu admits to receiving gifts like cigars and champagne from Milchan and Packer but said they were not illegal because they were simply gifts from his good friends.
Case 2000 Breakdown
In Case 2000, Arnon Mozes, owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in Israel allegedly asked Netanyahu to use his power to weaken Yedioth's rival newspaper Israel Hayom in exchange for positive news coverage.
An investigation found Netanyahu and Mozes allegedly took actual steps to promote each other's interests, "or at the very least made it appear to the other they were doing so," police noted.
If Netanyahu is indicted, it would be the first time that a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged.
The attorney general's decision is bad timing for Netanyahu who is seeking re-election in April for a fourth consecutive term.
Netanyahu's Likud faction on Thursday petitioned the country's High Court of Justice in a last-minute effort to stop the attorney general's announcement until after the April 9 vote, calling it "blatant intervention."
"The Attorney General's announcement of his intention to publish his announcement today is the result of the leftist's thuggish pressure over the past three years aimed at toppling the right-wing government and winning the elections not through the ballot box," the party said in a statement."The publication of the decision before the elections to the Knesset has no precedent in the history of Israeli law and constitutes blatant interference in the elections."
Netanyahu's office also said, "The house of cards will soon collapse."
Critics of Netanyahu believe the possible indictment will confirm accusations of corruption, while supporters see the prime minister as a victim of an overzealous prosecution. Either way, a poll from The Times of Israel shows Netanyahu is at risk of losing significant support from voters, which could lose him the election.