Avichai Mandelbit, Israel’s attorney general, announced the indictment of longest-serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, following investigations that the prime minister committed bribery, fraud, and a breach of trust.
Mandelbit delivered the verdict last Thursday confirming evidence on all three corruption cases, marking the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.
The charges come at a politically turbulent time as Israel moves towards a third election after 28 days of negotiation to form a coalition proved unsuccessful between Netanyahu’s Likud party and former IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, Blue and White party.
In the 63-page indictment, Netanyahu was accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of pounds in luxury gifts from billionaire friends and for trading valuable favours with Israeli media and telecoms moguls for positive news coverage, The Guardian reported.
Following the announcement, Mandelbit told reporters he found it a heavy and sad day for the Israeli public and himself.
After Netanyahu’s failure to secure a clear win in the last two elections the charges have thrown his political career further into limbo.
Previously denying allegations to which the prime minister labelled a witch hunt, Netanyahu has remained on the defensive, calling the charges false and politically motivated amounting to an attempted coup against him.
The Likud party leader’s political rivals were quick to call for his resignation, however, Netanyahu rejected this, reaffirming that he is not legally required to do unless convicted.
A family shrouded in controversy, Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was separately convicted in June for illegally misusing thousands of pounds of public funds for lavish meals, despite having an in-house cook provided by the state.
Following Mandelbeit’s announcement, hundreds took to the streets in divisive protests, some calling on the prime minister to resign, others rejecting the indictment.
Although Netanyahu’s premiership remains unclear, the number of demonstrators that gathered outside his residence on Balfour street holding signs such as, “You’ll never walk alone,” “Mendelblit, we won’t forget and won’t forgive” and “No to a coup” reaffirmed that the prime minister still retains vast public support.
Source: Palestine Monitor