TEL AVIV – Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be indicted for bribery in a decision that will rock the country a mere six weeks prior to general elections.
Mandelblit will charge the prime minister pending a hearing for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the so-called Case 4000, a corruption case involving the national phone company Bezeq. Netanyahu will also be indicted for breach of trust in Case 1000 for receiving illicit gifts, and with fraud and breach of trust in Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of striking a deal with media mogul Arnon (Noni) Mozes.
The decision marks the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has been informed that he is to face criminal charges. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who served time in prison, stepped down during a 2008 investigation into him before an indictment was announced.
“This is hugely significant — for the prime minister and for all of us,” the Times of Israel quoted Suzie Navot, a professor of constitutional and parliamentary law, as saying. “This was an investigation conducted with caution, with restraint — some would say too much restraint, over too long. The evidence was checked and re-checked.” Despite the attorney-general knowing what turmoil this would cause prior to the elections, “the decision was taken to indict, in all three cases,” she said.
The move could turn the tables for Netanyahu’s Likud party, which is currently running neck and neck with political newcomer and ex-IDF chief Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, according to polls.
Netanyahu’s Likud party responded that “there is nothing” to the cases against the premier and continued with the party line that “the media and the left” pressured the attorney general into the decision.
“No one is surprised by the announcement,” Likud said, adding that “the witch hunt against the prime minister began with an attempt to hit him with four bribery cases. Even before the hearing, three of those have collapsed.”
Netanyahu is slated to give a media briefing later on Thursday.