Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking re-election on 9 April under threat of charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust.

In one case, considered the most serious, Mr Netanyahu is accused of advocating regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage for himself from a media company owned by the then Bezeq CEO.

Another involves the prime minister allegedly seeking a secret deal with the publisher of Israel's top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival paper.

The third case involves suspicions Benjamin Netanyahu and his family received luxury gifts such as cigars and champagne from wealthy individuals, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Mr Netanyahu denies the accusations and calls them an attempt by his political enemies to force him from office.


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In a January speech launching his centrist Blue and White party, a leading Netanyahu challenger Benny Gantz accused the Israeli prime minister and those around him of becoming "addicted to the pleasures of power, corruption and hedonism".

He has upped the ante since, saying Mr Netanyahu may have pushed for an unnecessary submarine acquisition from Germany's Thyssenkrupp to boost the stock of a company, in which he had owned shares.

Netanyahu says he did nothing improper, sold the stock before the submarine sale and reported it to the relevant authorities.

He has fought back by seeking to discredit Benny Gantz, accusing his rival of corruption over contracts sought by a business he ran after retiring from the army.

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and bribery, following up on police recommendations.

Before the formal indictments, however, there will be a hearing after the elections but before 10 July, in which Benjamin Netanyahu will be given the chance to defend himself.

The most widely expected outcome is that Mr Netanyahu will stand trial but that prospect is unlikely to have a marked effect on the April elections.

Some Netanyahu-led Likud party supporters believe that he is the victim of a conspiracy, while others think that while the prime minister is perhaps flawed he must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

If Benjamin Netanyahu is re-elected and then charged, he will become the first sitting prime minister in Israel's history to find himself in such a situation.

Even if he is charged, Mr Netanyahu, 69, would not legally be forced to withdraw until he had been convicted and exhausted the appeals process.

He has said he intends to govern "for many more years".

Analysts believe he will stay on to fight the charges through every level of the courts, which could take years.