Prosecutors charge Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was indicted on multiple charges Thursday, is seen at an event in Jerusalem, Israel, on November 10. Photo by Heidi Levine/UPI/Pool

Nov. 21 (UPI) — Israeli prosecutors indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust — following a lengthy investigation the Israeli leader has dismissed as a “witch hunt.”

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s move to charge Netanyahu sides with long-running police investigations involving three cases. Mandelblit said he consulted with more than 20 senior legal officials about the investigations, known as cases 1000, 2000 and 4000.

Case 1000 involves gifts received by the prime minister; case 2000 says Netanyahu paid for favorable news coverage from the publisher of an Israeli newspaper; case 4000 says he made regulatory moves to benefit news outlet Walla in exchange for favorable coverage.

Netanyahu hoped to pass legislation to sidestep the indictment, but it hasn’t happened — partly because he hasn’t been able to form a governing coalition after elections in April and September. The Israeli Knesset is now tasked with the job.

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The indictment adds uncertainty to Netanyahu’s political future. If Rivlin again askes him to try and form a coalition, he would become the first Israeli prime minister under indictment to do so.

Netanyahu’s attorneys said last month they were confident corruption charges would be dropped. The prime minister has rejected claims of wrongdoing, saying they are part of a campaign waged by his political enemies.

Netanyahu has served two stints as Israeli prime minister, with the present tenure beginning in 2009.

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