Israel attorney general to indict Netanyahu

Posted March 01, 2019

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

On Thursday his plan lay in ruins, as Mandelblit gave the nod for the PM to be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in several criminal cases. But Netanyahu's lawyers may succeed in arguing that it should not come to trial.

According to Israeli law, Ministry of Justice prosecutors will hold a pre-indictment hearing before they formally charge the prime minister.

Netanyahu doesn't look to go that quietly.

Mr Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and calls the various allegations a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office.

The Likud had joined a petition filed with the supreme court to stop Mandelblit from announcing his decision before the elections. But the court rejected the request 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.

Mr Mandelblit's decision could either galvanise Mr Netanyahu's hardline supporters who see him as a victim of an overzealous prosecution or turn more moderate backers against him who have exhausted of his lengthy rule tainted by long-standing accusations of corruption and hedonism.

Either way, the upcoming elections appear to be morphing into a referendum on Netanyahu as he seeks to become the longest serving premier in Israeli history.

In his statement on Thursday, the prime minister touted what he has achieved for the country: noting the strong economy and ties with world powers that he has cultivated over the last decade.

Netanyahu earlier in the day received support from US President Donald Trump, who defended his Israeli ally in remarks after his summit in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "I've built it up for years, and it helps me ensure our security and future and defend our country".

The prime minister had moved up the parliamentary balloting from November, in part to forestall Mandeblit's decision.

Ze'ev Rubinstein, a confidant of the Netanyahus, will be charged with bribery.

Case 4000 involves Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq.

However, it is unclear whether the attorney general will recommend any legal action with regard to Case 2000, which allegedly involved Netanyahu colluding with news site Yedioth Ahronoth to cripple a competing news publication, Israel Hayom, in order to extract more positive coverage from Yedioth.

However most feel it will do Netanyahu irreversible damage, given that the juiciest details gleaned from the Israeli Police investigations are still to emerge in the Israeli press - a fate journalists know to be inevitable.

He also faces fraud and breach of trust charges in that case. They also recommended charges be brought against Elovitch, members of his family and members of his Bezeq management team.

The attorney general has accepted police advice to charge Netanyahu in three different cases, including alleged trading of favours with media companies to receive favourable coverage.

Over one-quarter of those planning to vote for Likud said they won't do so if Mandelblit releases a draft indictment, and its parliamentary representation would fall to 25 seats from 29 projected previously, the poll showed.