Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu charged with bribery, fraud

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Claims indictment is ‘attempted coup’ against him and the investigators ‘weren’t after the truth’

A defiant Benjamin Netanyahu rejected all allegations of fraud on Thursday, saying he would not step down as Israel’s prime minister despite being indicted on a series of corruption charges.

Netanyahu denounced what he called the “false” and “politically motivated” allegations, hours after being charged by the attorney general with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denied all wrongdoing.

“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “The object of the investigations was to oust the right wing from government.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced the indictment earlier on Thursday, calling it a “heavy-hearted decision” based only on solid legal evidence. But Netanyahu said the investigators “weren’t after the truth, they were after me”.

In a 15-minute speech, Netanyahu railed against his political rivals and state institutions, accusing the police and judiciary of bias. The veteran politician argued it was time for an “investigation of the investigators”, and vowed to continue in his position despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.

“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said. “I will not allow lies to win.”

Political chaos

The charges raise more uncertainty over who will ultimately lead a country mired in political chaos after two inconclusive elections this year.

Israeli law does not require Netanyahu to step down from the post of prime minister if indicted. The entire process of an indictment and trial could take two years.

As prime minister, he would only be forced to resign from the post if he is eventually convicted, where he could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine for bribery charges alone, while fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

Case 1,000 alleges Netanyahu and his wife wrongfully received gifts from Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, as well as from Australian billionaire James Packer, in return for political favours. The gifts included champagne and cigars, according to reports.

In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is suspected to have struck a deal with the owner of Israel’s daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth to receive favourable media coverage in return for legislation that would slow the growth of competing newspaper Israel Hayom. Of the investigations against Netanyahu, Case 4,000 is seen as the most serious.

He is alleged to have negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, to get positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefitting Bezeq.

Source: Al Jazeera

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