Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM charged with corruption

Nellie Chapman
November 22, 2019

JERUSALEM: Israel´s attorney general indicted Benjamin Netanyahu on a range of corruption charges Thursday, the justice ministry announced, potentially spelling an end to the prime minister´s decades-long political career.

While Israel is no stranger to seeing its leaders under investigation, it's the first time a sitting prime minister will be put in the dock.

Netanyahu has consistently denied the allegations, decrying them as part of a "witch hunt."

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit capped nearly three years of investigation and months of speculation by handing down a 63-page indictment against the country's longest-serving prime minister and its center of political gravity for the last decade.

Israeli been without a government for almost a year, with neither Mr Netanyahu nor his centrist rival Benny Gantz able to form a coalition government following deadlocked elections in April and September.

On Wednesday, Mr Netanyahu's rival for the premiership, Benny Gantz, said he had been unable to command a majority in parliament and form a governing coalition. He is due to make a statement on Thursday evening.

The charges deal a blow to Netanyahu's hopes to remain in office, though he would not be required to step aside.

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Israeli's prime minister accused his opponents of trying to carry out an "attempted coup" against him after he was formally charged Thursday in a series of corruption cases.

The only plausible way out of a third election - and the prolonged political paralysis that has gripped Israel for the past year - would be a unity government.

And if a new Israeli election is in the cards, Mr. Netanyahu would be running as an indicted suspect, displaying further vulnerability to an electorate that has already seen him falter at the polls. He is expected to ask the Knesset for parliamentary immunity, and the official indictment could still take months.

"I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law", he said. At least one leading Likud member, Gideon Saar, has said he's prepared to challenge him for the party leadership.

The veteran politician argued that it was time for an "investigation of the investigators".

The leader of the centrist Blue and White party and Israel's former military chief said he had informed President Reuven Rivlin of his decision and returned the mandate to form a government that the president had given him last month.

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