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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the news of his indictments by defiantly calling it an “attempted coup.”
On Thursday, Netanyahu — Israeli’s longest serving prime minister and the United States’ most trusted ally in the region — was indicted on all three of the corruption cases against him: for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The news marks the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted on criminal charges.
Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, sent the indictments to Netanyahu’s lawyers and to the speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to begin the process of stripping him of his parliamentary immunity, the Justice Ministry, said according to Axios.
Mandebilt characterized Netanyahu’s indictment as a “heavy-hearted decision” based solely on professional considerations and rejected suggestions that he was politically motivated.
The Associated Press reported that in a defiant statement Thursday, Netanyahu called the indictment a result of a “tainted investigation” stemming from “false accusations.”
Netanyahu also called for the investigators involved in the indictment to be investigated themselves in a press conference following the news.
There are three indictments in total, but “the most painful charge for Netanyahu stems from ‘Case 4000,'” Axios reported. That case is in regard to his and his wife’s relationship with the head of Israel’s largest telecom provider.
The report also stated:
According to a police statement, Netanyahu, who at the time was also the telecom minister, allegedly gave Shaul Elovitz regulatory benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In return, Netanyahu and his wife were allegedly allowed to demand positive coverage from one of Israel’s major news websites, owned by Elovitz.
Police recommended charges in two other bribery cases in February. One involves Netanyahu allegedly taking “gifts” worth $200,000 from businessmen in return for promoting their interests (Case 1000). The other is an alleged bribe deal between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s largest newspaper (Case 2000).
President Reuven Rivlin told the parliament on Thursday that it has three weeks to choose a candidate and produce a governing majority of 61 seats or Israel will face its third election in just eleven months, the Financial Times reported.
With the indictments hanging over Netanyahu, political deadlock has resulted in Israel. Neither Netanyahu or his political rival, former Army Chief Benny Gantz, have been able to form a government, resulting in two deadlocked elections so far this year.
Netanyahu has been serving as the interim prime minister in the absence of a majority.
Now that he has been indicted, Netanyahu will have 30 days to convince the Knesset to not strip him of his parliamentary immunity.
While there is legal precedent for a minister to resign when indicted, the precedent has never been tested in regards to a serving prime minister, and Israel’s Supreme Court will likely need to get involved.