Historic Indictments in Israel5 min read

On November 21, 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted by Israel’s attorney general on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.[1] Notably, Netanyahu is the first prime minister of Israel to ever be indicted.[2] Netanyahu has been prime minister of Israel since 2009, and previously served as prime minister from 1996 to 1990. Overall, he is the longest serving prime minister of Israel since the nation gained independence in 1948.[3]

The news of the indictments dropped in the midst of a political battle for prime minister after two inconclusive elections in April and September.[4] In the aftermath of the second election, both Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz failed to form a coalition government.[5] Thus, the parliament of Israel is unsure of what steps to take next and who could potentially form a majority coalition. It is expected that another election for prime minister will take place in the future.[6]

In total, Netanyahu was charged in three different cases. In the first case, called case 1,000, Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust.[7] Allegedly, Netanyahu received high-value gifts, including champagne and cigars, in return for political favors for his wealthy friend. In his defense, Netanyahu claims these gifts were simply related to their friendship and did not involve any political favors.[8] Like the first case, in the second case (case 2,000) Netanyahu is also being charged with fraud and breach of trust. Supposedly, Netanyahu made a deal with a major newspaper publisher to promote legislation that would weaken a rival newspaper in return for favorable coverage.[9] In the third case, case 4,000, which is considered the most severe of them all, Netanyahu is being charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Purportedly, Netanyahu is thought to have promoted regulatory decisions that benefited a prominent telecommunications company. In return, Netanyahu allegedly received positive news coverage from one of the company’s websites.[10] In each case, Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.[11]

On November 21, 2019, in response to the indictments, Netanyahu gave a fifteen-minute speech in which he claimed the charges were simply a “coup” against him and that he will not relinquish power.[12] Netanyahu argued that law enforcement officials and the judiciary were ganging up against him for “politically motivated” goals.[13] Furthermore, he claimed that witnesses were blackmailed in order to force them to tell lies.[14] Thus, according to Netanyahu, the indictments are unfounded.[15]

Netanyahu’s future as a politician is unknown. As of today, there are no legal barriers barring him from being prime minister. Moreover, it could be months before the indictments are brought before a district court. If convicted, Netanyahu would not be required to step down until the appeals process ended. Thus, it could be years before Netanyahu faces official political ramifications for his alleged actions.[16]

The indictments of Netanyahu connect to the theme discussed in class of corruption and challenges to democracy. According to Robert Dahl, one of the minimal requirements for a democracy is a free media in which there are alternative sources of information.[17] Clearly, if Netanyahu did use his power to influence the media, he undermined Israel’s democracy as a whole. Moreover, Netanyahu’s general charges of corruption threaten the legitimacy of Israel’s democracy because while in power he allegedly abused his position. Members of the Blue and White party, Netanyahu’s opposition, are arguing that he no longer has a mandate from the people to lead Israel.[18] Also, his opponents believe that he no longer has a moral right to be prime minister.[19] Additionally, many are concerned that Netanyahu can no longer be prime minister after undermining the judicial and police systems in his speech on November 21.[20] There is a fear that as prime minister, Netanyahu will spitefully avoid cooperating with these two entities.[21]

I am curious to see how these indictments will impact a potential third election for prime minister. Can Netanyahu win despite the indictments? Undoubtedly, it is seemingly difficult for a voter to support a candidate accused of abusing the position he seeks to gain. However, the accusations against Netanyahu have been well-known throughout the election process and he has still be able to garner support within his party and in the population.[22] Specifically, the attorney general announced in February 2019 that he was preparing to indict Netanyahu.[23] Thus, I contend that the indictment will not affect Netanyahu’s support. In fact, if a third election occurs, I believe Netanyahu will win.

Overall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has undermined the legitimacy of Israel’s democracy and should step-down as prime minister. I believe it is in the best interests of the nation to appoint a new prime minister who the people can trust. Nonetheless, I contend that this scandal will not be the end of Netanyahu’s political career. I think he will be elected to a fifth term as prime minister of Israel.

Works Cited

BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’.” BBC. November 22, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50512102.

 Dahl, Robert Alan. 1971. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=52899&site=ehost-live.

Kennedy, Merit. “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is Charged in 3 Corruption Cases.” NPR. November21, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/21/781568870/israeli-prime-minister-netanyahu-to-be-indicted-on-corruption-charges.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Benjamin Netanyahu.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last Updated November 21, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Benjamin-Netanyahu.


[1] BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’,” BBC. November 22, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50512102.

[2] Merit Kennedy. “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is Charged in 3 Corruption Cases,” NPR. November 21, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/21/781568870/israeli-prime-minister-netanyahu-to-be-indicted-on-corruption-charges.

[3] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Benjamin Netanyahu,” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last Updated November 21, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Benjamin-Netanyahu.

[4] BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’,” BBC.

[5] Merit Kennedy. “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is Charged in 3 Corruption Cases,” NPR

[6] Id.

[7] BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’,” BBC.

[8] Id.

[9] BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’,” BBC.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Robert Alan Dahl. 1971. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=52899&site=ehost-live.

[18] BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’,” BBC.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Merit Kennedy. “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is Charged in 3 Corruption Cases,” NPR

[23] BBC Editors. “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in the face of ‘coup’,” BBC.

1 thought on “Historic Indictments in Israel<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">5</span> min read</span>”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article, especially as I have a great interest in Israel as a nation due to my family being Jewish and even having some cousins in Israel. The accusations being made against Netanyahu are quite interesting, especially as now marks a current period of great divide in Israeli politics and social life. More specifically, as Netanyahu, who is prominently known for being a leader of the right-wing party Likud, has even received great backlash and loss of support from various right-wing politicians that have historically been in his camp–resulting from his making earlier concessions to the Palestinians in an effort to try and combat the growing tensions between the two peoples and potentially bolster the creation of bipartisan solutions. However, as a result of the long-standing hatred and frustrations between the two peoples, no such concessions were able to make any difference. Despite this loss in support from his own party, since Netanyahu has been such an influential and central figure in Israeli politics and development, I doubt as well that these recent indictments will lead to his ultimate either stepping down or removal from the position of prime minister. I think that a very possible new trend we are beginning to see in global politics, or rather that we are beginning to notice more frequently, is the use of whatever means possible by the opposition to try and remove a particular person from power when there are great discrepancies in terms of partisanship and alignment of ideals. I think that this article was very well written and presents a very detailed summary of the current issue, or rather one of them, taking place in Israeli politics.

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