ISRAEL: ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO INDICT PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU for bribery, fraud + breach of trust
Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is an Israeli politician serving as the 9th and current Prime Minister of Israel since 2009, previously holding the position from 1996 to 1999. Netanyahu is also currently a member of the Knesset and the Chairman of the Likud party.
Israel’s attorney general has announced his intention to indict the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in three corruption cases.
The decision comes just six weeks before the Israeli general election and could severely damage Netanyahu’s chances in a tight race.
Avichai Mandelblit’s long-awaited announcement signals his intent to prosecute the prime minister with criminal wrongdoing in all the cases against him, in which he has been accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Under Israeli law, Netanyahu can defend himself in a pre-trial hearing before the charges are formally filed in court, and potentially persuade the attorney general to have them dropped. It is not clear if that process will begin before the election on 9 April but it will likely take many months.
However, the weight of announcement throws serious doubt over his political future.
He has denied all accusations, dismissing them as part of a witch-huntorchestrated by the press. Speaking on Thursday evening, Netanyahu said in a televised statement that “this entire house of cards will collapse”.
The country’s second-longest serving premier who runs the most right-wing government in its history, Netanyahu has previously pledged not to resign if indicted. He would be under no legal obligation to do so.
He warned the legal case against him was a political ploy by leftist opponents “just to topple the right wing and raise the left to the premiership. There is no other explanation.”
Netanyahu went on to say that the accusations were lies and a “blood libel”.
Fearing the impact on the upcoming vote, the prime minister’s right-wing Likud party petitioned the high court on Thursday in last-minute attempt to block the announcement, but it was rejected.
The party later described the charges as “political persecution”.
“Unilateral publication of the attorney general’s announcement just a month before the elections, without giving the prime minister an opportunity to refute these false accusations, is a blatant and unprecedented intervention in the elections,” Likud said in a statement.
During two years of intense deliberations and questionings, police have already recommended that Netanyahu, be indicted in all three cases.
He could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
Case 1,000 involves allegations of receiving gifts, including expensive cigars, pink champagne and jewellery, from international billionaires allegedly in exchange for favours. In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is accused of colluding with the country’s top-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage.
The third and most serious case, 4,000, involves allegations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecom provider Bezeq in exchange for positive stories in an online news website it owns, Walla.
It would be the first time that a sitting prime minister has been charged. A poll by the Times of Israel found that the decision could lose Netanyahu four seats in the election and scupper his chances of forming a coalition government.
The poll indicated the newly formed Blue and White party, run by retired army chief Benny Gantz, could see a major jump in its Knesset seats, placing it in a strong position to form a coalition.
Further hurting Netanyahu’s run for reelection, several key allies of the prime minister have said they will not support him if the attorney general goes forward with an indictment.
Netanyahu rushed back on Wednesday from a trip to Moscow where he met with President Vladimir Putin to prepare for the possible fallout.
Hours ahead of the announcement, the embattled Israeli leader received support from his ally, the US president Donald Trump.
“I just think he’s been a great prime minister and I don’t know about his difficulty,” he said in response to a question in Hanoi.
“I can say this, that he’s done a great job as prime minister. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong,” Trump said.
Separately, Sara Netanyahu was charged last year with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly overspending roughly $100,000 (£78,000) on private meals at the prime minister’s official residence, even though there was a full-time chef on staff. She denies the accusations, and the case is ongoing.
Comments are closed.