Published: Fri, March 01, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Israeli attorney-general plans to charge Netanyahu in corruption cases

Israeli attorney-general plans to charge Netanyahu in corruption cases

Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, which sought to delay the attorney-general's announcement with a last-minute petition that was thrown out by the supreme court on Thursday, called the reported charges "political persecution".

Charges include bribery and fraud and breach of trust, according to the statement.

But the court rejected the request on Thursday afternoon, potentially clearing the way for an announcement from the attorney general.

The announcement comes ahead of April 9 elections in which Netanyahu is facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance headed by a respected former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz.

His televised address came hours after Mandelblit announced his intention to charge the prime minister in three corruption cases, pending a hearing.

Mandelbilt announced that his office was charging Netanyahu with two counts of fraud and breach of trust and one count of bribery.

Netanyahu, 69, has maintained his innocence throughout the process, describing the investigations as "a witchhunt", and polls have shown that Israelis either believe in his innocence or not depending on their own political leanings.

Netanyahu has been prime minister for a total of around 13 years and he would be on track to surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as Israel's longest-serving premier should he win in April.

The prime minister says these were gifts from friends, and has denied giving any favours in exchange.

"I just think he's been a great prime minister and I don't know about his difficulty but you tell me something people have been hearing about, but I don't know about that", he said in response to a question in Hanoi, where he was holding a summit with the leader of North Korea.

He called the allegations a "house of cards" that he was "4,000 percent sure" would collapse. Israeli police recommended months ago that Netanyahu be indicted for all three sets of allegations.

Netanyahu said he has "less disagreements with Trump than he had with President Obama", and he has yet to encounter "any disagreement with Trump".

Police have previously recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases.

Netanyahu also made a point of repeating the messages already heard in the campaign, and stood in front of an election poster with the slogan "Netanyahu, a strong right". Netanyahu has denied all accusations, dismissing them as part of a witch-hunt orchestrated by the press.

Netanyahu rushed back Wednesday from a diplomatic mission to Moscow, and a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, to prepare for his expected rebuttal to the charges on Thursday. In the long-running investigations, he is suspected of wrongfully accepting gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensing favors in alleged bids for favorable coverage by a newspaper and a website.

"While the numbers we have tested don't look good for him at this stage, it's very hard to establish beforehand what would happen if people see the prime minister in that situation", Davies said.

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