On Thursday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced “with a heavy heart” that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him. This marks the first time in Israel’s history that a serving Prime Minister faces criminal charges.
According to the full indictment released by the Justice Ministry, Netanyahu will be charged with fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 for allegedly receiving various high value ‘benefits’ in return for favour from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli billionaire businessman and film producer.
Netanyahu will also face the same charges in Case 2000 following accusations that he agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily paper in return for more favourable coverage from Yedioth.
The Prime Minister’s faces more serious charges of bribery alongside fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000. It is alleged that Netanyahu promoted regulatory decisions favouring telecoms company Bezeq in return for favourable news coverage from their websites, as part of an agreement with the company’s controlling shareholder.
On Thursday evening, Netanyahu said he was the victim of an attempted coup and would not resign, opting to continue his premiership “in accordance with the law”. Under Israeli law, Mr Netanyahu is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise and there is currently no legal barrier to him staying in office as Prime Minister.
Mandelblit is expected to formally inform the Knesset’s Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, of his decision in the coming days. From that moment, Netanyahu has 30 days to decide whether to ask the Knesset for Parliamentary Immunity.
As the Knesset House Committee, which handles immunity matters, is not currently sitting owing to Israel’s ongoing political deadlock, the process is complicated should the Prime Minister wish to make this request.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in all three cases, and has alleged that the investigations against him are a “witch hunt” involving the left, the media and the police relentlessly pressuring the Attorney General.