Published: Fri, March 01, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Prime minister to be indicted for 'bribery, fraud'

Prime minister to be indicted for 'bribery, fraud'

Netanyahu's Likud party calls the reported charges "political persecution" and said the prime minister would make a statement at 18:00 GMT on Thursday.

Netanyahu faces fraud and breach of trust charges linked to that investigation.

The supreme court on Thursday afternoon rejected the petition, paving the way for Mandelblit to proceed with his announcement.

He helped to orchestrate a merger between the extremist party Otzma Yehudit, which means "Jewish Power", and Habayit Hayehudi, a party of settlers, with the promise that these parties would be brought into government if Netanyahu wins in April.

Domestic media reported that Avichai Mandelblit would recommend charging the prime minister in the three criminal investigations against him, pending a hearing.

While Israeli prime ministers are not required by law to resign if charged, the prospect of a prime minister standing trial while simultaneously running the country would be unchartered territory.

"The left knows it can not beat us at the polling booth, so for the past three years they have been carrying out an unprecedented witch hunt which has one aim: to topple the right-wing government which I lead", he said. The prime minister has visited the White House and praised Trump for his actions in Israel, even going so far as to compare the president to King Cyrus the Great, the Persian monarch who allowed the Jews to return from their Babylonian captivity.

It's a major blow to the long-serving premier and Trump ally, though not a final decision on an indictment.

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

But the recommendations immediately cast a cloud over the campaign and Netanyahu's future.

The most serious allegations against Mr Netanyahu involve his relationship with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel's telecom giant Bezeq. "He's tough, he's smart, he's strong".

With Israelis set to cast their votes in April, the indictment comes at a crucial time for Netanyahu.

It said the decision not to question political figures in the case ahead of the 2013 elections was made by the top investigating officer in the Israel Police, not by Ben-Ari, partly due to the possible effect on the election, and partly because the investigation was still secret at the time.

Mr Mandelblit recommended a bribery charge in the case based on evidence collected that confidants of Mr Netanyahu promoted regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq.

A related charge against Mr Netanyahu's wife, Sara, was dropped.

Case 1000 involves gifts from foreign billionaires in return for favours, while Case 2000 alleges that Netanyahu colluded with one newspaper to hamstring a competitor in return for favourable coverage.

"I'm very anxious for freedom of the press and freedom of government in Israel if they start indicting people for trying to get good coverage from the media", he told Israel's Army Radio.

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