Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo by -/POOL/AFP via Getty Image
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is an Israeli politician who is serving as the prime minister of Israel since December 2022, having previously held the office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 to 2021. Netanyahu is the longest-tenured prime minister in the country's history, having served for a total of over 15 years. In an interview with CNN, he said that he wished his legacy to be the security of Israel.
Throughout his political journey, Netanyahu faced several criminal allegations. Six of these led to criminal investigations: In one instance, he was suspected of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, while in others, allegations were limited to fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu currently faces multiple trials over allegations of significant corruption, bribery, and misconduct.

Political Career

Born in Tel Aviv to secular Jewish parents, Netanyahu spent parts of his childhood in Jerusalem and Philadelphia, USA. From 1984 to 1988, he served as Israel Ambassador to the United Nations. Netanyahu's political ascent began with his election as the chairman of Likud in 1993, leading to his role as the Leader of the Opposition. He won by an extremely tiny margin in the 1996 election, but by 1999, Netanyahu lost to Ehud Barak, prompting his temporary departure from politics.
Group of Israeli government ministers at the Knesset
Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images
Netanyahu regained the Likud leadership in December 2005 after Ariel Sharon founded a new party, Kadima. He then served as the Leader of the Opposition until 2009. Allying with other right-wing parties, he became the prime minister after the 2009 election. Netanyahu led Likud to victories in 2013 and 2015. A political impasse after the three consecutive elections of 2019 and 2020 was resolved when Netanyahu and Benny Gantz of the Blue and White alliance struck a coalition rotation deal. However, the coalition broke apart in December 2020, prompting yet another election in March 2021. Netanyahu resumed his position as the opposition leader after Naftali Bennett's coalition with Yair Lapid in June 2021.
After an election campaign centered on the issue of living costs, Netanyahu's coalition secured 64 seats, and he was sworn in again as Prime Minister. Just six days after the government was sworn in, on January 4, 2023, Justice Minister Yariv Levin introduced a sweeping and unprecedented reform concerning judicial independence. This laid the foundation for the introduction of numerous laws set to significantly alter the character of the State of Israel. Widespread protests against this apparent coup d'état emphasize that the primary motive behind weakening the judicial system's independence is to assist Netanyahu amidst the serious criminal trials he faces.

Family Life

Both Netanyahu and his third wife, Sara, have faced criticism for their perceived extravagant lifestyle at the taxpayer's expense. Controversies ranged from their gigantic ice cream consumption costs to garden furniture and private residence cleaning expenses. Sara, in particular, encountered legal issues: she was sued by a housekeeper in January 2010, another caretaker and a former bodyguard in March 2014, and faced a scandal over catered meals in 2015. In June 2019, she accepted a plea deal for misusing state funds.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara
Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images
Netanyahu has three children. His middle son, Yair, has been embroiled in multiple controversies, including a 2015 recording from a Tel Aviv strip club and a slanderous Facebook post in November 2019, leading to legal consequences against him in February 2020.
Yair is also renowned as a social-media personality known for propagating conspiracy theories and disseminating fake news. In September 2017, Yair posted a meme on his Facebook page titled "The Food Chain". At the top of the meme, George Soros was depicted as the supreme ruler. Below him was an image of a lizard man, followed by an Illuminati figure, and at the bottom were opponents of his father. The meme's dissemination drew public criticism since its design was rooted in an anti-Semitic caricature. Roughly two days after its initial post, he took it down. In February 2023, Yair shared a conspiracy theory alleging that those protesting against the Levin reform were being paid to do so, suggesting that these demonstrations were orchestrated by the CIA. In March 2023, while on air with Gali Israel radio, Yair contended that left-wing protestors utilized tactics reminiscent of the Nazi SS and made an audacious claim that they had attempted to set the Knesset on fire, drawing parallels with the Reichstag fire. Furthermore, Yair propagated false information suggesting that parties opposing his father had "rigged" election outcomes. In March 2023, he fabricated a story claiming that "left-wing anarchists" were commissioned by Ehud Barak to assassinate his father.

Criminal Investigations

The 1990s - His Early Work

  • The Bar-On Hebron Affair: In January 1997, suspicions mounted over Netanyahu's purported involvement in a plot to appoint the Attorney General. Although the police recommended charges, Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein refrained from prosecuting due to inadequate evidence but remarked on Netanyahu's peculiar behavior.
  • The Amadi Case and The Gift Case: Allegations in September 1999 insinuated that Netanyahu leveraged his position to receive favors from trucking contractor Avner Amadi. Additionally, there were claims that Netanyahu unlawfully kept gifts received during his tenure as Prime Minister. In both cases, Rubinstein declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence, but reprimanded Netanyahu's behavior
  • The Bibitours Affair: Journalist Raviv Drucker's March 2011 investigation revealed that between 1999-2008, Netanyahu's family's travels were financed by private entities. Known as the "Bibitours Affair," this led to state scrutiny and a police inquiry.
Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset

Recent Years

  • Case 1000: This involves allegations that Netanyahu and Sara accepted lavish gifts, including champagne and cigars, from wealthy benefactors. In February 2018, police recommended his indictment on charges of fraud and breach of trust. His trial is currently ongoing.
  • Case 2000: This case centers around Netanyahu's alleged attempt to negotiate a deal with Arnon Mozes, the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth, a major Israeli newspaper. The proposed deal would have guaranteed Netanyahu favorable media coverage in return for legislation that would negatively impact a competing newspaper. Police have recommended charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. His trial is ongoing.
  • Case 4000: Here, Netanyahu is accused of offering regulatory benefits to Shaul Elovitch, the principal shareholder of Bezeq, Israel's telecom giant, in exchange for positive coverage on Walla! News, an online portal owned by Elovitch. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in November 2019. This trial is also in progress.
  • Submarine Scandal (Case 3000): While Netanyahu was not directly implicated, this scandal pertains to alleged corruption in a multi-billion-shekel deal to buy submarines from a German shipbuilder. Several close associates of Netanyahu, including his personal lawyer, were either arrested or questioned in relation to this case.