Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu charged with fraud and bribery

Nellie Chapman
November 22, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 30, 2019.

The allegations against Netanyahu include accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from business figures, including luxury items such as cigars and Champagne.

Earlier on Thursday, during one of the most unusual days in Israeli political history, the country's president told lawmakers to name a third candidate to form a new government, a development that probably sets the stage for a third election within a year.

Two close aides to Mr Netanyahu testified against him in the case.

Gantz, following the announcement of the charges Thursday, said the prime minister now has "no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for the state of Israel". Speaking at a conference, he said it was "not reasonable" to expect that the prime minister could form a government after third elections, given that he had failed twice already.

Israel's attorney general indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges on Thursday, heightening uncertainty over who will ultimately lead a country mired in political chaos after two inconclusive elections this year.

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For Netanyahu, not securing a fifth term as prime minister has legal implications; it may increase his vulnerability to possible indictment on corruption charges.

"Tonight", he said, "we are witnesses to an coup attempt against a prime minister through an investigation process which is contaminated and tendentious".

The indictment rejects Netanyahu's protestations of innocence and comes at a tumultuous time in Israeli politics. At least one leading Likud member, Gideon Saar, has said he's prepared to challenge him for the party leadership. The opening of a trial could be delayed for months by a possible new election and any moves by Netanyahu to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Mandelblit has been threatening to indict Netanyahu since February, when the police recommended the step after a year-long investigation.

In Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, Netanyahu is accused of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

While Netanyahu has maintained strong support from his political base so far, while criminal charges against him were still uncertain, polls have shown that a formal indictment would change many minds, including among many right-wing voters.

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