Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the most precarious position of his political career. On Thursday, the country's attorney general Avichai Mandelblit released a 63-page indictment, accusing Netanyahu of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. This makes Netanyahu the first Israeli prime minister ever indicted while in office, and it comes at a time when the future leadership of the country is completely up in the air.
Netanyahu is facing charges in three separate cases. The first is Case 1,000, which alleges that Netanyahu and his wife accepted more than $260,000 worth of luxury goods, including jewelry, cigars, champagne, and Mariah Carey tickets. In exchange, he offered political favors to the several billionaires who provided him with these gifts, including the Israeli-born producer Arnon Milchan, whose name is attached to movies like The Revenant, Fight Club, and Pretty Woman. One of those favors is reportedly what Israelis have started calling the "Milchan law," which cuts taxes for citizens who return to Israel after living abroad.
The second allegation, Case 2,000, is focused on a quid pro quo Netanyahu tried to get in exchange for more positive media coverage. Netanyahu reportedly pressured Arnon Mozes—publisher of one of Israel's major daily newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth—to back off of negative press about his administration. In exchange, Netanyahu reportedly offered to ask American right-wing billionaire and close ally Sheldon Adelson to limit the circulation of his Israel Hayom, a free daily paper and rival of Yedioth Ahronoth. In 2017, a transcript of a conversation between Netanyahu and Mozes leaked to the media. "Every day I have somebody who is killing me," Netanyahu complained, before pleading with Mozes "to lower the level of hostility toward me from 9.5 to 7.5." Adelson denies that he was ever aware of such a deal.
Case 4,000 also concerns the prime minister trading favors for friendlier media coverage. Netanyahu allegedly negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, a billionaire and majority shareholder of the Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, offering to advance regulation in the company's interest and make it easier for Elovitch to back a merger of two media companies that earned him millions. In exchange, between 2012 and 2017, Netanyahu and his associates got to guide coverage of the news site Walla, also owned by Bezeq. They reportedly had a shocking degree of editorial control: pushing flattering pictures, killing headlines and stories that were critical of the government, and even having a say in the hiring of editors and writers.
This is a turbulent time in Israeli politics—after two elections no party has a clear majority or even enough support to build a coalition. Netanyahu's rival Benny Gantz missed a Wednesday deadline to form a new government, and as a result the country may be heading to its third round of national elections in less than a year. Coupled with the indictments, Netanyahu, who has dominated Israel's politics for decades, has never looked more vulnerable. Anshel Pfeffer, a Ha’aretz columnist and Netanyahu biographer, told the Washington Post, "It shows that he’s not as omnipotent as everyone thought. It shows the system is stronger than Netanyahu."
Netanyahu meanwhile is mimicking Donald Trump to defend himself, calling the investigations against him a "witch hunt" and claiming that the indictments amount to an "attempted coup." If the impeachment hearings against the president are any indication, Trump is probably not the best model for avoiding culpability.
On March 15, when a white supremacist livestreamed his mass shootings of a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, a country with one of the world's lowest gun homicide rates was stunned to silence. But only momentarily. The deaths of 51 New Zealanders, mostly Muslim immigrants, would not be met with a tepid countermeasure but a swift, clear response. Sean Flynn reports from Christchurch about the day of the massacre—and the days that followed.
Originally Appeared on GQ