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On Favours, Fraud, Bribery & Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Bibi Netanyahu’s legal, as well as political, troubles played out on April 5, 2021 at his corruption trial, and also in the President’s Residence, as well…

Earlier, the Judges ordered Bibi to be in court for the prosecution’s opening argument on three cases, involving charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. At the same time, President Reuven Rivlin began talks with various parties over who should lead the next Government after a fourth inconclusive election on March 23, 2021.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Now, the question arises here: Can Netanyahu be on trial and remain the PM? Under Israeli law, a PM is under no obligation to stand down unless convicted. No other minister is protected in this way, though. Netanyahu, fondly known as Bibi, has pleaded not guilty, claiming that he is a victim of a witch hunt. Interestingly, bribery charges carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine, while fraud and breach of trust are punishable by up to three years in jail.

The PM had allegedly granted regulatory favours worth USD 500 million to Bezeq Telecom Israel. In return, according to prosecutors, Netanyahu sought positive coverage of himself and his wife, Sara, on a news website controlled by the company’s former chairperson. There are also fraud and breach of trust over allegations that he and his wife had received USD 210,000 worth of gifts from Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood Producer, and Australian billionaire businessman James Packer. He had also negotiated a deal with Arnon Mozes, the owner of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, for better coverage in return for legislation to slow the growth of a rival daily.

According to sources close to the concerned authorities, the trial could take years. However, proceedings could be cut short if Netanyahu seeks a plea deal. The Israelis are closely monitoring the ongoing trial, as the corruption case against their PM was a polarising issue, in the recently-held Parliamentary Elections.

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