Israelis head to the polls on April 9 to choose parliament and a new prime minister from two candidates facing allegations of corruption: Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.
On April 9, Israelis will vote to elect a new parliament. Benny Gantz, leading the Israel Resilience Party, and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of the Likud party, are in a close race for the country's top post.
A series of corruption probes against Netanyahu and pending decisions by Israel's attorney general on whether to follow police recommendations to indict him, however, have raised speculation he would opt to seek a public show of confidence at the ballot box.
Together with corruption allegations, the bill on national service for the ultra-Orthodox population has also created a dispute among the ruling coalition. These disputes led to an early election, seven months before the one originally scheduled for November 5 2019.
However, both rivals in the current political race have been accused of being involved in corruption.
Netanyahu faces various corruption allegations, such as favouring a telecommunications company in exchange for positive coverage for him, receiving expensive gifts and close relations with fraud suspects.
Gantz’s name has also repeatedly come up in corruption allegations. Gantz is the former chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces and founded the Israel Resilience Party in December 2018.
According to state controller Joseph Shapira, the Israel Police awarded a $13.7 million project to Fifth Dimension, a company of which Gantz was chairman of the board, despite the company’s lack of experience.
Fifth Dimension took the job without having to compete with any other company. It had also provided false information to Israel Police representatives about the company’s ability to carry out the project.
The firm serves an artificial intelligence system to public agencies.
There are four corruption allegations against Netanyahu, known as cases 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000. He is accused of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and misuse of state funds.
Case 1000: Netanyahu is suspected of accepting gifts of cigars, champagne and jewellery from Israeli producer Arnon Milchan and business tycoon James Packer. These gifts were estimated to be valued at hundreds of thousands of shekels. His wife Sara Netanyahu has been accused of asking Milchan for jewellery worth $2,700.
In case 2000, Israeli police claim to have tapes showing negotiations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, Yedioth publisher, to make daily coverage more positive towards the prime minister in exchange for restoring Yedioth's ranking among the country's media.
Although Netanyahu gave testimony for case 3000, he was not implicated in this one. But his close aides are suspects, accused of bribery and fraud in the procurement process of submarines worth $2 billion.
After a lengthy investigation into case 4000 involving Netanyahu's relationship with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel' s telecom giant Bezeq, police want to bring charges.
Police said they found sufficient evidence that confidants of Netanyahu promoted regulatory changes worth $280 million to Bezeq. In exchange, they believe Netanyahu used his connections with Elovitch to receive positive press coverage on Bezeq's popular news site Walla.
The Bezeq case is the most serious of which Netanyahu has been accused. Two of his top confidants have turned state witnesses and are believed to have provided police with incriminating evidence.
Netanyahu held the government's communications portfolio until last year and oversaw regulation in the field. Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu.