Fact Check: Corruption Allegations Against Benjamin Netanyahu Are Bogus

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech to the foreign media during the annual GPO (government press office) New Year's toast in Jerusalem on January 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty

CLAIM: Benjamin Netanyahu will be punished for corruption if he is no longer prime minister.

VERDICT: Mostly false. He may face indictment, but there is no serious evidence of corruption.

Critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — including the mainstream media in both the U.S. and Israel — are salivating at the prospect that he could face corruption charges after his party failed to win enough seats in the elections earlier this week to allow him to build a majority coalition.

NBC News, for example, cited a university professor who observed: “If [Netanyahu]’s not prime minister anymore, it’s almost a certainty that he will face court.”

But that does not mean the allegations against Netanyahu have any merit whatsoever. As Caroline Glick argued in several columns late last year, Netanyahu is being targeted by Israel’s “deep state” — the law enforcement agencies that, as in the U.S., resent populist leadership of the government. In Israel’s case, the legislature — the Knesset — does not even have the oversight powers regarding these agencies that Congress, and Americans, take for granted.

Glick noted:

[T]he allegations of graft and bribery being raised against Netanyahu are spurious on their face and unsupported by precedent, practice, or law. Netanyahu is accused of accepting bribes in the form of cigars and champagne from one friend, whose legislative goals Netanyahu failed to support.

Netanyahu is also accused of accepting bribes in the form of positive coverage from a website in exchange for regulatory breaks for the website’s owner. The problem is that the coverage he received from the website was almost entirely hostile and the regulatory policies he enacted bankrupted his friend’s company.

Netanyahu is accused of negotiating a deal to curtail the circulation of a friendly newspaper in exchange for less hostile coverage from an unfriendly paper. But no deal was ever made. And Netanyahu went to early elections to block passage of a law – drafted by the lawyers of the hostile paper – that would have closed down the paper that is friendly to him.

In other words, the investigations against Netanyahu are absurd.

Relentless coverage of those allegations damaged Netanyahu’s political standing and may have cost him victory in the elections. However, that does not make the allegations any more valid. They are Israel’s version of “Russian collusion” — leading to an endless cycle of negative media and political attacks but leading, thus far, nowhere.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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