Netanyahu to be Charged in Corruption Cases, Pending Hearing

Netanyahu orders Likud to stop using dead soldiers in Gantz attacks

Israel's attorney general says he has made a decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a series of corruption charges.

An actual filing of the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust would depend on the outcome of a required hearing, the Justice Ministry said.

The indictment, only weeks before he runs for a fourth consecutive term April elections, will be followed by a hearing where Netanyahu could defend himself before charges are filed.

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.

The charges will likely be pressed following a pretrial hearing that will take place shortly after the Israeli elections on April 9, and there is still a possibility that Netanyahu's lawyers could present new evidence to avoid prosecution.

If Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit decides to press charges, which expert expect he will do, it would be the first time a sitting prime minister in Israel has been indicted.

News of the deal went down badly among Netanyahu's powerful supporters in the United States, including influential lobby group AIPAC, which broke from tradition to criticise a sitting Israeli prime minister.

In a last-ditch effort to prevent the public release of an indictment, Mr Netanyahu's Likud party petitioned the Supreme Court to have it delayed until after the elections.

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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.

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.

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 defense, Netanyahu said that he specifically voted against the law that would have weakened Israel Hayom, risking his political career in 2014 and calling new elections because of it.

The right wing parties realize that their electorate expects them to support the prime minister and have already begun to toe the party line.

Netanyahu can argue at the hearing, whose date has not yet been set, against an indictment. "The presumption of innocence is reserved for every person, including the prime minister".

Police have accused Netanyahu of accepting bribes from wealthy foreigners, of attempting to strike backroom deals to obtain more favorable media coverage, and of giving a telecommunications company favorable regulations in exchange for positive media coverage.

Netanyahu, who rejects all the charges against him, opened his remarks by thanking Putin and US President Donald Trump for backing his strong leadership style.

The case against his wife Sara Netanyahu in that investigation was however dropped. "We have a good shot at peace between Israel and the Palestinians".

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