What began in 2016 with a police investigation, continued as a prosecution case and filled thousands of pages of newspapers, minutes of TV news and hours of interrogation recordings, has taken shape this Sunday with a spectacular image: Benjamin Netanyahu visually descending from prime minister to defendant. The following is a summary of the key points of the accusations.
In the last three years, prosecutors and police have interrogated more than 140 witnesses - including the prime minister and several of his relatives - and have obtained commitments from several to testify on behalf of the prosecution, in this case, the prosecution of the head of government. The protagonist, who shares the dock with three other defendants, has insisted all this time on characterizing the trial as a "witch-hunt", and has tirelessly repeated the mantra of: "There will be nothing because there is nothing". A statement that must now be acknowledged or refuted by a court.
These are the cases:
Alleged crimes: Bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
This is the most serious case and, according to the experts, the one that has more chances of ending up in a sentence.
Netanyahu is suspected of doing favors between 2012 and 2017 for Israeli telephone giant Bezeq in exchange for favorable news coverage of him and his wife Sara on the popular digital news site Walla, both controlled by the same businessman, Shaul Elovitch. Elovitch and his wife Iris are also appearing as defendants. Last December, after months of investigation and more than 50 testimonies, police concluded that there was enough evidence to charge him with all three charges.
“The main suspicion is that the prime minister took bribes and acted in a conflict of interest by intervening and acting in regulatory decisions that favor Shaul Elovitch and the Bezeq Group, while at the same time directly and indirectly demanded interference with the content of the Walla site in a way that would benefit him,” the police recommendation explained.
“The prime minister and his associates intervened in a blatant and ongoing manner, and sometimes even daily, in the content published by the Walla News website, and also sought to influence the appointment of senior officials (editors and reporters) in order "to promote their personal interests by publishing flattering articles and photos, eliminating critical content about the prime minister and his family," the text states. The prosecution report, for its part, claimed to have "reached the clear conclusion that there were corrupt and inappropriate motives at the heart of Netanyahu's actions". He denies the commission of any crime.
Alleged crimes: Fraud and breach of trust.
He is being investigated for accepting lavish gifts from two millionaires for him and his family - up to one million shekels (about 260,000 euros) - including expensive cigars, jewellery, travel and French champagne in exchange for favours. They were Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan, an Israeli whom Netanyahu would have helped get a US long term visa, and his Australian friend and partner, also a millionaire, James Packer. Among the favors would be the passage of a law limiting taxes for Israelis returning from abroad, which is very beneficial to Milchan, and business support in the Israeli television market.
The prosecution's report states that "there is enough evidence to prove that the gifts, given in large scale and in unusual ways, had been received in exchange for actions by Netanyahu". Netanyahu has acknowledged that he received gifts, but denies that there were any favors in return and argues that "it is acceptable to receive some gifts from friends".
Alleged crimes: Fraud and breach of trust.
An alleged attempt at a covenant between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, also accused and editor of Israel's largest paid newspaper, the Yediot Aharonot, was examined. The former had allegedly asked for more positive coverage in exchange for damaging the distribution of the rival daily, the free newspaper Israel Hayom.
According to the prosecution, the recorded conversations with Mozes indicate that Bibi "violated the trust he owes the people and seriously damaged the image of public service and the public's faith in it". He abused his authority to benefit his family's interests and to "corrupt public officials". Audios of the negotiations are recorded by a former head of Netanyahu's office, Avi Harrow, who has become a state witness in exchange for a lesser charge in another case he faces.
Netanyahu acknowledges that the conversation with Mozes took place, but claims it was not serious, that the pact was not carried out and denies any wrongdoing.