Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu corruption hearings begin | News | DW | 02.10.2019

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Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu corruption hearings begin

The prime minister faces charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate cases. The indictment hearings follow a deadlocked federal election that has left Netanyahu struggling to stay in power.

Lawyers arrived at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning to begin arguments in favor and opposition of corruption charges against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit seeks to charge Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in three separate cases. 

Netanyahu himself will not be present at the hearings and will instead be represented by his lawyers.

The process is expected to last four days. The prime minister requested the hearings be broadcast live as he has "nothing to hide". The attorney general dismissed the request and said the purpose of the hearing was to convince legal authorities and not the public.

The accusations

The first investigation, known as Case 1,000, accuses the prime minister and his family of accepting expensive gifts, including expensive cigars, champagne, and jewelry, worth an estimated 700,000 shekels (€185,000 or $200,00) from billionaires in exchange for financial and personal favors. 

In the second investigation, Case 2,000, Netanyahu is said to have struck a deal with the owner of critical newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth to improve coverage about him in exchange for legislation that would weaken a rival paper. 

The most serious charge, known as Case 4,000, similarly alleges that Netanyahu offered Israel's largest telecommunications provider favorable policies in exchange for positive news coverage.

Mandelblit's long list of the prime minister's purported media oversteps include an accusation that he requested the publication of a story about his wife attending a Mariah Carey concert and meeting the singer.   

Read more:Israeli PM Netanyahu's wife fined for misusing public money

Netanyahu denies all allegations and has classified them as a "witch hunt."

A decision on whether and how Netanyahu will be charged could take weeks.

A day of setbacks

The hearings begin on the same day that Netanyahu may be forced to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he is not able of form a government with his challenger Benny Gantz's centrist party.

Read more: Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to form new government

Netanyahu had planned to meet with Gantz on Wednesday in talks he called a "last effort," but his rival canceled the appointment, citing a lack of progress in talks for a national unity government.

If Netanyahu fails to deliver, the president could then offer Gantz a chance to form a government, or he could ask parliament to vote on a candidate.

kp/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)