Close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been charged in relation to just two of numerous scandals currently embroiling senior political figures in Israel. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, is to be indicted on charges of fraud amounting to $110,000 later this week, while last Sunday’s round of arrests as part of the investigation into the “submarine scandal” included Brigadier General Shai Brosh, former head of the Israel navy’s elite Shayetet 13 commando unit and naval intelligence.
According to Haaretz, Sara Netanyahu is accused of using public funds for private expenditure in the prime minister’s households. The case has been under investigation for two years since reports emerged of her excessive spending, and now involves three separate incidents in which she reportedly used government money to finance personal demands, sometimes purposefully using services such as tradesmen during more expensive working hours.
Brosh has been arrested in relation to another ongoing corruption case involving the allegedly fraudulent purchase of German ThyssenKrupp submarines. The former admiral, who was picked-up following testimony from a former Israeli representative to the shipbuilders, now turned state witness, Michael Ganor, is suspected by police of demanding bribes in order to exploit his navy connections to secure the deal. The investigation, known as “Case 3,000”, also implicates Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and cousin, David Shimron, and has additionally claimed the arrest of former cabinet minister Elizier Sandburg.
The past months have seen numerous high level political figures and friends of the Prime Minister questioned in regards to the ongoing corruption cases.
Netanyahu himself is currently entangled in four political scandals: Case 1,000 which involves allegations that the PM and his wife accepted illegal gifts from businessmen; Case 2,000 which accuses Netanyahu of attempting to buy favourable newspaper coverage; Case 3,000, also known as the “submarine scandal”; and Case 4,000, in which a close associate of Netanyahu is suspected of provided confidential information to Israel’s largest telecoms company.
In response, Netanyahu has largely evaded any discussion of the ongoing investigations. At a rally in Tel Aviv last month, though, he accused the media of amplifying what he considers to be left-wing voices who wish to topple his government by reporting “fake news”.
Last month, members of the Likud called for Netanyahu to resign due to him “harming” the political party’s reputation. Whilst numerous ministers support the Prime Minister, many reportedly fear an indictment as more and more members of his inner circle face charges.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to face criminal investigation; former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014 and Ariel Sharon was questioned while in office over allegations of bribery and campaign financing illegalities.
Israel frequently refers to itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East”, but this remains highly debateable as corruption scandals threaten to embroil the highest political authority in the country.