Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: IANS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday was indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.
Israeli Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit publicly released an official indictment, allowing a period of 30 days during which the long-time leader may request the parliament to grant him immunity from standing trial.
In the 63-page indictment, Netanyahu was accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of pounds in luxury gifts from billionaire friends and for trading valuable favours with Israeli media and telecoms moguls for positive news coverage.
Netanyahu has previously denied all the allegations, saying they are part of a politically orchestrated “witch-hunt” to oust him from office.
The dramatic move, the culmination of three years of inquiries, arrives at a desperately fraught time for Israel’s longest-serving leader. Netanyahu is scrambling to remain in power after failing to secure a clear win in two elections this year.
On November 22, PM Netanyahu was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, making him the first Israeli premier to be indicted while in office and sending Israel’s already stalemated political system into further disarray.
In all three cases, Netanyahu has been accused of fraud and abuse of trust, and in addition in Case 4,000, he is alleged to have committed bribery, the most serious accusation that puts his position in question.
In October, the prime minister’s legal team spent four marathon days in front of prosecutors arguing that the charges should be reduced or dismissed, an effort that apparently had little effect.
Netanyahu was first elected as chairman of the Likud in 1993, serving in the opposition until 1996. He resigned from politics after being defeated in a general election in 1999, returning to lead the party in 2005. Since then he has consolidated his position in Likud, dividing and weakening his opponents and facing very few challenges over the years.