Published on
by

Netanyahu to Be Indicted on Bribery, Fraud, Press Tampering: Israeli AG

They are not his biggest crimes, but they certainly line up with what his leadership represents

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the US Congress on March 3, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has announced that he will indict Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on bribery and fraud charges.

I think it should be underlined that two of the charges have to do with tampering with press coverage of the prime minister, which is to say, tampering with the Fourth Estate, one of the key elements of democracy.

Israeli politics are not truly democratic, in part because of the occupation of 5 million stateless Palestinians whose fates are decided by the Israeli military and political elite, and in part because of severe censorship of the press. But Netanyahu’s thuggish threats and sweetheart deals to manipulate press coverage of himself are on top of all that.

Corrupt US casino mogul Sheldon Adelson also played a sinister role in destroying Israeli democracy by funding a free newspaper that did cheer leading for Netanyahu. Since it was free, it hurt the business of the other newspapers and Netanyahu could use it to blackmail them by threatening that Adelson might print up more free issues, or could bribe them by pledging to have fewer free newspapers in circulation.

I wrote last December:“One of the charges concerns the giant media company, Bezeq and the favors and tax breaks thrown to it by Netanyahu, who kept the Communications portfolio in his cabinet for himself.”

According to BBC Monitoring:

  • “Between the years 2012 and 2017 the prime minister and his aides intervened blatantly and continuously, and sometimes even daily, in the content published by the Walla news website. The intervention of the prime minister and his aides in the content and appointments [of editors and reporters] at the Walla website was meant to advance his personal interests, through publication of flattering articles and photos, removal of content critical of the prime minister and his family members, and so on.”

Netanyahu was also “accused by the police of attempting to do a deal with the owner of Yediot Aharanot, a major mass circulation newspaper. Its sales were being hurt by a free newspaper started by Netanyahu supporter Sheldon Adelson, Yisrael Ha-yom (Israel Today). Netanyahu suggested that Adelson could reduce his print run to help out Yediot Aharanot if only the latter would run more positive stories about Netanyahu and his far right Likud Party.”

The third charge is that Netanyahu received what were essentially bribes for favors from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood film producer, and James Packer.

Netanyahu disputes all three charges.

A final indictment awaits a set of hearings where Netanyahu’s attorneys will attempt to make a last attempt to avert the indictment. This process won’t begin until after the next election, and could drag on for many months.

Some Israel watchers are convinced that the indictment will make no difference. Netanyahu’s right wing coalition may well win the 61 seats in parliament needed for a majority, and his far right wing Likud Party will likely be the largest party in the coalition. Netanyahu may well be reelected prime minister despite the charges.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:



Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster), will officially be published July 1st. He is also the author of Engaging the Muslim World and Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (both Palgrave Macmillan). He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

Share This Article