Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the corruption indictments leveled against him Thursday as an “attempted coup” and a witch hunt. He’s vowing to stay put, and planning a public campaign against the attorney general, state prosecutors and the police.

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.

  • Netanyahu stands accused of giving Israel's leading telecommunications tycoon regulatory benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars in return for favorable news coverage.
  • He’s also accused of taking improper gifts from businessmen and bribing the owner of Israel’s largest newspaper.

On the scene: Netanyahu’s political rivals, including Benny Gantz, called on him to resign. His right-wing political allies praised his work for the country and stressed that he is innocent until proven guilty — but they didn’t say anything about political next steps.

  • Most of the senior ministers of Netanyahu’s Likud party refrained from appearing on TV or even issuing statements of support for hours. When they finally did, their comments sounded more like eulogies.
  • Some senior Likud members briefed reporters anonymously that “it seems like the Netanyahu era is over and it is just a matter of time before he leaves.”

But, but, but: Netanyahu's top priority is to quell any dissent within the party ranks, and he still plans to lead Likud into Israel’s third election in the span of a year.

  • That election is expected primarily because the allegations against Netanyahu have deadlocked Israeli politics.
  • Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, failed this week to form a government to oust Netanyahu.
  • A national unity government involving both leaders appears impossible given the charges against Netanyahu. Without a deal in the next three weeks a new election will be called.
  • Even if Netanyahu manages to win, it’s unclear whether he would receive a mandate to govern given the charges against him.

The big picture: Regardless of what happens next, today clearly dealt Israel’s longest-serving prime minister a devastating blow.

  • Netanyahu, the son of a historian and someone who sees himself as on a historical mission, now has an unmistakable stain on his legacy.

Zoom out: Netanyahu has been arguably President Trump's closest international ally. In Washington, many Democrats drew parallels between the indictments and Trump’s impeachment process.

“Netanyahu is accused of accepting bribes, trading government favors, and manipulating a free press. Like his pal Donald Trump, he'll stop at nothing to enrich himself and stay in power."
— Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Twitter

Go deeper:

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!