Year 24
Month 06
Day 07
Corruption in Israel

5 Corruption scandals that rocked Israel


Imagine I’m describing a country you’ve never heard of: I tell you that every prime minister of this country in the last 20 years has at some point been under criminal investigation. Defense ministers were investigated and put on trial for corruption. Other top government officials have likewise been under suspicion.
This country is not imaginary. It’s Israel. 

These investigations fall to Lahav 433, an anti-corruption unit within the Israel Police that investigates both public officials and private citizens. Lahav 433 also fights organized crime.
Here are some of the big names who were questioned — and in some cases, convicted — over their business dealings:


Benjamin Netanyahu


Netanyahu has been the subject of criminal investigations before. In 1997, during his first term as Prime Minister, he was investigated for possible charges of fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu was accused of appointing an attorney general who would offer favorable treatment to a political ally. Police recommended charging Netanyahu, but prosecutors declined to file charges.

Two years later, Netanyahu was again investigated for fraud, this time for accusations involving a government contractor. Once again, he was not charged. Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing and promised he wasn't going anywhere, similar to the promises he's making today.

Now he is a suspect in four cases:

Case 1000

This investigation involves allegations that Netanyahu, his wife Sara and their son Yair received lavish gifts from two wealthy businessmen: Israeli-born Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. Netanyahu and his wife Sara allegedly received regular shipments of expensive cigars and champagne, worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, from Milchan. It has also been reported that Milchan bought Netanyahu’s wife an expensive piece of jewelry.
Netanyahu has insisted these gifts were nothing more than tokens of friendship and no favors were provided to Milchan in return. Packer has allegedly lavished gifts on Netanyahu’s son Yair, including free flights and hotel rooms. Netanyahu, his wife and son – along along with Milchan and Packer – have all already been questioned by police in the case. Netanyahu was named a suspect in this case last month. The prime minister’s bureau has responded that the allegations are “unfounded.”


Case 2000

This probe involves allegations that Netanyahu was willing to sell out Israel Hayom to obtain favorable coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth, a newspaper known to be critical of him. The deal would have cut the circulation potential of Israel Hayom, which since its founding has replaced Yedioth Ahronoth as the country’s largest circulating newspaper.

Last month, a former Netanyahu aide signed an agreement to serve as state’s witness in this case. In exchange for testifying against Netanyahu, American-born Ari Harow, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, will avoid jail time in a separate case.

Some of the conversations between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes were recorded on Harow’s smartphone, which was confiscated by police while they were investigating the other case against him. Harow is believed to have been intensely involved in the negotiations between Netanyahu and Mozes. His agreement to testify against Netanyahu, therefore, greatly strengthens the possibility of an indictment in this case.

Netanyahu has long claimed that he was not serious about the offer to Mozes and was simply trying to test the publisher. According to a recent Channel Two report broadcast, Adelson told Israeli police investigators that Netanyahu had tried to persuade him to withdraw plans for weekend supplements at Israel Hayom. That would indicate that Netanyahu was indeed intent upon reaching a deal with Mozes. Netanyahu was named a suspect in the case as well last month. The prime minister’s bureau has responded that the allegations are “unfounded.”


Case 3000

The “Submarine Affair” is by far the most serious scandal swirling around Netanyahu. The prime minister is not a suspect in this particular case, but three of his close confidantes are. ThyssenKrupp, the German shipbuilder, is represented in Israel by Michael Ganor, the key suspect in the affair. Alleged to have bribed high-ranking defense officials to advance the deal, Ganor signed an agreement this summer to turn state’s witness in the case. In exchange for testifying against other suspects, he will serve one year in prison and be fined 10 million shekels ($2.8 million). David Shimron, Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, adviser and cousin, served as Ganor’s attorney.

Shimron was suspected of lobbying Israeli Defense Ministry officials on behalf of Ganor and ThyssenKrupp. Israeli media have reported that Shimron stood to gain tens of millions of shekels from the submarine deal. He has denied the report.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told police that Netanyahu tried to facilitate the deal with ThyssenKrupp by urging the cancellation of a previous tender for the submarines issued by the Defense Ministry. He has also accused Netanyahu of purchasing more submarines than the Defense Ministry deemed necessary. Netanyahu has denied these allegations.

Half a dozen suspects have been detained in this case, among them the former commander of the Israeli navy, Vice Admiral (res.) Eliezer Marom, who was questioned again this week. Another key suspect is Avriel Bar-Yosef, former deputy head of the National Security Council, who is also known to have close ties to Netanyahu.


Case 4000

Also known as the “Bezeq affair,” this corruption scandal began with a special state comptroller report, published in July, on the problematic relationship between the Communications Ministry and Bezeq, Israel’s telecom giant. The report found that Shlomo Filber, director general of the Communications Ministry and a former top aide to Netanyahu, had been providing Bezeq with confidential documents and other information from which the company stood to benefit. Netanyahu had brought Filber to the Ministry of Communications after he fired Avi Berger, his predecessor at the job. Berger had been trying to advance a broadband reform that would have hurt Bezeq.

The State Comptroller report also found that while serving as communications minister (Netanyahu holds various ministerial portfolios), the prime minister had not disclosed, as required, his friendship with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq. This disclosure was required since Netanyahu had the power to shape policy in a way that could benefit Bezeq.


Ariel Sharon

Sharon was suspected of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in the late 1990s in what came to be known as the "Greek Island Affair." Prosecutors recommended bringing charges against him, but the attorney general felt there was insufficient evidence. The accusation involved Israeli businessman David Appel bribing Sharon, who was then serving as Foreign Minister, to help Appel win approval for a development in Greece.


Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert is serving a 19-month prison sentence for fraud and breach of trust in a scandal known as the "Holyland Affair." Olmert was convicted in 2012 of taking bribes related to a housing project in Jerusalem, where he served as mayor before becoming Prime Minister of Israel. Olmert was then convicted in 2015 of taking bribes in what is called the "Talansky Affair." American businessman Morris Talansky testified that he gave Olmert envelopes stuffed with cash.


Aryeh Deri

In his role as Interior Minister, Deri was convicted of taking bribes, fraud, and breach of public trust in 1999. The case dragged on through most of the 1990s. In the end, the court acquitted Deri of a second bribery charge and a charge that he falsified documents while serving in the Interior Ministry. Deri served a two-year sentence. After his release he re-entered politics and now once again serves as Interior Minister.


Avigdor Lieberman

Lieberman, who now serves as Israel's Defense Minister, has faced repeated questioning about his business dealings. He has been interrogated on suspicion of money laundering, fraud, and breach of trust in a long-running corruption probe that still resurfaces in the Israeli news. In late 2012, Lieberman was charged with breach of trust and fraud, but he did not face the more serious charges of money laundering and witness tampering. He was acquitted on all charges.

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