Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced the decision on Thursday to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges including bribery, breach of trust and fraud.
“In the prime minister’s affairs I found there was evidence pointing to grievous actions allegedly being committed, which carry a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Mandelblit said. “For this reason it is my duty by law to indict. It is not a choice. It is an obligation. Thus it is in the case of any citizen, and thus I acted here.”
Netanyahu has rejected the charges, and the move is bound to affect the chaotic political situation, where a third set of elections is looming after neither Netanyahu nor Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz were able to cobble together a coalition. The prime minister is expected not to resign and plans to address the country this evening in Israel.
His political opponents immediately called for him to resign.
The Blue and White Party tweeted: “A prime minister who is up to his neck in investigations has no moral and public mandate to make fateful decisions for the State of Israel.”
Likud Knesset member Miki Zohar tweeted: “The first emotion I feel: a great sadness. I am sad for the prime minister, what a ‘great’ gift the state gave him for giving the best years for us all. Everything was known ahead of time. We knew the attorney general wouldn’t be able to withstand the pressure put on him.”
Netanyahu is being charged with using his influence to promote regulation with an Israeli telecom company that also runs the popular Walla website; receiving around $300,000 in gifts; and for offering the publisher of Yediot Achronot for offering to pass a law to hinder the newspaper’s competitor in return for positive coverage, the AP reported.
The most worrying case that of Netanyahu allegedly promoting legislation for millions of dollars to Israel’s Bezeq telecom company in exchange for positive coverage on the Walla website. The gifts’ case involves Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
The media case involves asking Yediot Achronot publisher Arnon Mozes for positive coverage in return for passing legislation that would weaken the free rival Israel Hayom.
The cases include several former close advisers that became state witnesses.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Thursday night, calling the corruption charges levied against him as an “attempted coup,” and that he vows to remain in office and fight the charges.
“This is what they call a personal investigation. A personal investigation on steroids,” Netanyahu said in a statement from his Jerusalem residence. “They’re spilling my blood, and the blood of my wife and children.”
“I will not allow lies to win,” he said. “I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law.”
Nentanyahu’s statement came just an hour after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced the decision on Thursday to indict the premier on corruption charges, including bribery, breach of trust and fraud.
Under Israeli law, government ministers are required to resign if indicted. However, there is no such requirement for the prime minister to resign while under indictment.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu, who is currently head of an interim Israeli government, faces an uncertain political future.
On Wednesday, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz announced that he was unable to form a governing coalition. The process now heads to the Knesset, where any member of the body can garner 61 signatures to form the next government. If a Knesset member is unable to form a government within the next 21 days, a third round of elections within the past year will be called.