Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted in three corruption cases against him — for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, The New York Times reported Thursday. This is the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister will face criminal charges.
According to the report, Israeli’s attorney general sent the indictments to Netanyahu’s lawyers and to the speaker of the Knesset — Israel’s parliament — in order to begin the process of stripping him of his parliamentary immunity, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
The backdrop: The most painful charge for Netanyahu stems from “Case 4000,” which concerns he and his wife’s relationship with Israel’s leading telecommunications tycoon.
Citing a police statement, The Times reports that Netanyahu gave telecommunications tycoon Shaul Elovitz regulatory benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In return, Netanyahu and his wife were allegedly allowed to demand positive coverage from one of Israel’s major news websites, owned by Elovitz.
In another case, Police recommended charges in two other bribery cases in February. One involves Netanyahu allegedly taking “gifts” worth $200,000 from businessmen in return for promoting their interests.
The other case is an alleged bribe deal between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s largest newspaper, according to the report.
The looming indictments plunged Israel into a political deadlock following an inconclusive election two months ago.
Netanyahu and Benny Gantz both failed to form coalitions, and a proposed national unity government has been blocked because Gantz refuses to serve under a prime minister facing corruption charges.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, has refused to step aside as prime minister because the indictments threaten his political survival.
This is a developing story.