Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced today that he was indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in all three graft cases for which he was being investigated. Netanyahu is charged with bribery for allegedly offering incentives to telecommunications company Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage, and with fraud and breach of trust for receiving gifts from his millionaire friends and attempting to get a deal with the owner of the Yediot media group.
This is the second time a prime minister in Israel has faced criminal indictment. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sent to prison after he was convicted of bribery.
Why it matters: Netanyahu's investigations have trailed him throughout the 2019 electoral season and have dominated this year’s elections. His rivals blame him for holding his Likud Party — and the whole country — hostage to his criminal cases and preventing the formation of a unity government that could end Israel’s political paralysis.
Netanyahu has led the country for more than 10 years and his upcoming legal fight against the charges is expected to be deeply intertwined with Israeli politics. The impact on national security is also not to be discounted as Israel steps up its attacks against Gaza and Iranian targets in Syria.
What’s next: The judicial process will start in a few months. Until then, Netanyahu can ask for immunity from the Knesset. The current political vacuum, however, has left the legislature without a committee that can discuss the issue, so the indictment will be delayed for at least six months. Netanyahu can also ask for automatic immunity, which would send the issue to the Supreme Court. All this comes as Knesset members have just three weeks for a long-shot attempt to form a government before new elections are called for the third time in a year.
Blaming the deep state: Netanyahu and his supporters blame the so-called deep state for his predicament, accusing his rivals of attempting to topple him in court after failing at the ballot box. They have notably attacked the police, the prosecutor's office and the press.
Read more: Akiva Eldar writes that one option out of the political morass is for Netanyahu to seek a pardon in exchange for leaving politics.
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