Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit announced on Thursday that he will indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
The announcement marks the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted on criminal charges, and follows years of investigations and review by the police and attorney general’s office.
The bribery charge is considered the most serious. Netanyahu is accused of demanding a “quid pro quo” of more favorable coverage from Walla! News, a popular Israeli news website, in exchange for implementing policies favorable to Walla! owner Shaul Elovitch’s company.
“The defendant Netanyahu took the aforementioned illicit benefits from the Elovitches, knowing he was taking a bribe as a public official for his actions related to his public role,” the indictment reads.
As Prime Minister, Netanyahu technically has immunity from prosecution, however, Mandelblit will now ask Israel’s parliament to revoke that immunity, a process which could take up to thirty days.
Mandelblit’s announcement throws Israel’s political situation even further into chaos.
The country has had an unprecedented two national elections in 2019. Netanyahu failed to form a government after the April elections, and rival Benny Gantz notified the public on Wednesday that he too had failed to form a governing coalition after elections in September.
The current caretaker government now has 21 days during which any parliament member may try to form a coalition. If that fails, the country will go to a third round of national elections.
Netanyahu is set to give a press conference on Thursday regarding the indictments.
Further complicating matters for the Prime Minister, a parliament member from Netanyahu’s own Likud Party named Gideon Saar signaled in comments to the Jerusalem Post on Thursday he would be willing to challenge Netanyahu for control of the Party.