Nov 21, 2019

Decision imminent on Netanyahu corruption indictments

Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit will announce his decisions on potential indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases during a press conference in Jerusalem at 19:30 local time (12:30 EST)

Why it matters: The looming indictments have plunged Israel into a political deadlock following an inconclusive election two months ago. Netanyahu and Benny Gantz both failed to form coalitions, and a proposed national unity government has been blocked because Gantz refuses to serve under a prime minister facing corruption charges and Netanyahu refuses to step aside as prime minister because the indictments threaten his political survival.

Details:

  • In case 4000 — which involves Netanyahu's relationship with Israel's leading telecommunications tycoon — Netanyahu could be indicted for bribery.
  • In case 2000 — involving Netanyahu's alleged deal with a newspaper publisher for favorable coverage — he could be indicted for fraud and breach of trust. 
  • In case 1000 — involving allegations Netanyahu took gifts worth $200,000 from businessmen in return for promoting their interests — he could be indicted for fraud and breach of trust

The backstory: Mandelblit is Netanyahu’s former cabinet secretary and was the prime minister's candidate for attorney general. However, Netanyahu and his political allies have started attacking Mandelblit in recent weeks, claiming they don’t trust his judgment and good faith.

  • Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, will gave a statement shortly after Mandelblit's announcement.

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Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

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Why it matters: This is the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has faced criminal charges. Israel's attorney general sent the indictments to Netanyahu's lawyers and to the speaker of the Knesset — Israel's parliament — in order to begin the process of stripping him of his parliamentary immunity, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

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Driving the news: Thursday's announcement from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, though long-anticipated, was a political earthquake. The indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust made Netanyahu the first Israeli prime minister to face criminal charges.

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Israel's political drama is entering yet another unprecedented stage. The Knesset, Israel's parliament, dissolved itself tonight, and the third election in under a year was set for March.

Why it matters: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing three corruption indictments, and the March election could be his last. Netanyahu and his top rival, Benny Gantz, both failed to form a government during 80 days of negotiations following September's vote.

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