Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday slammed the planned indictments against him, saying the charges amounted to “an attempted coup against a prime minister.”
Just two hours earlier, Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit announced he would charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in the culmination of three long-simmering corruption cases.
The most serious of the charges is bribery. Netanyahu is accused of using his position to provide favorable business conditions to media mogul Shaul Elovitch, in return for more favorable coverage on the Elovitch-owned Walla! News website.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the cases. During the press conference, he said the country’s legal system was “polluted,” and that “they didn’t look for the truth, they looked to come after me.”
Mandelblit, who was appointed to his current post by Netanyahu, said earlier that he reached his decision to indict the prime minister “with a heavy heart.”
“In the prime minister’s affairs I found there was evidence pointing to grievous actions allegedly being committed, which carry a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Mandelblit said. ““For this reason it is my duty by law to indict. It is not a choice. It is an obligation.”
Mandelblit’s announcement came at a tumultuous time for Israel’s political landscape. The country has had two national elections within the past year, and in both instances Netanyahu and chief rival Benny Gantz were unable to form governing coalitions.
Israel’s parliament now has a 21-day period during which any member may try to form a coalition. If the efforts fail, the country will hold an unprecedented third national election within a year.