PM Netanyahu charged in corruption cases
Israel’s attorney general yesterday formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s paralysed political system into further disarray and threatening his 10-year grip on power. Netanyahu angrily accused prosecutors of staging “an attempted coup”.
Capping a three-year investigation, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in three different scandals. It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.
An ashen-faced Netanyahu appeared on national TV, claiming he was the victim of a grand conspiracy by police and prosecutors.
He defiantly claimed the indictment stemmed from “false accusations” and a systematically “tainted investigation,” saying the country was witnessing an “attempted coup” against him.
“Police and investigators are not above the law,” he said. “The time has come to investigate the investigators.”
As the investigation gained steam in recent months, Netanyahu has repeatedly lashed out at the media, police and justice system, drawing accusations that he was undermining the country’s democratic institutions.
Mandelblit earlier rejected accusations that his decision was politically motivated and said he had acted solely out of professional considerations.
According to the indictment, Netanyahu accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favours with a newspaper publisher, and used his influence to help a wealthy telecoms magnate in exchange for favourable coverage on a popular news site.
The indictment does not require the 70-year-old Netanyahu to resign, but it significantly weakens him at a time when Israel’s political system appears to be limping towards a third election in under a year.