Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Israel braces for bitter fight after Netanyahu indictment

Published:Friday | November 22, 2019 | 9:58 AM
In this September 10, 2019 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment is expected to sharpen the battle lines in Israel’s already deadlocked political system and could test the loyalty of his right-wing allies, Israeli commentators said Friday.

The serious corruption charges announced Thursday appear to have dashed already slim hopes for a unity government following September’s elections, paving the way for an unprecedented repeat vote in March, which will be the third in less than a year.

In an angry speech late Thursday, Netanyahu lashed out at investigators and vowed to fight on in the face of an “attempted coup.”

His main opponent, the centrist Blue and White party, called on him to “immediately resign” from all his Cabinet posts, citing a Supreme Court ruling that says indicted ministers cannot continue to hold office.

Netanyahu also serves as minister of health, labour and Diaspora affairs, as well as acting minister of agriculture.

He is not legally required to step down as prime minister, but Netanyahu faces heavy pressure to do so, and it is unclear whether an indicted politician could be given the mandate to form a new government.

Netanyahu has already failed to form a majority coalition of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset after two hard-fought elections this year.

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