DESPARDES — Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was slapped with three charges on Thursday– bribery, breach of trust and fraud, a criminal indictment that plunged Israel deeper into political disarray according to Reuters and has raised unprecedented legal questions for both him and the country said The New York Times.
The decision announced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit represented the gravest crisis in the political career of the man popularly known as “Bibi”.
Mr. Netanyahu, the country’s longest serving prime minister, ends up having the dubious distinction of being the first to be indicted while in office. He has denied the allegations against him. He says he is the victim of a political witch hunt.
Israel was already struggling to choose a leader who could form a new government after two inconclusive elections this year. Mr. Netanyahu’s indictment adds further uncertainty to a chaotic political landscape.
Netanyahu is in power since 2009.
The indictment posed no immediate threat to Netanyahu’s hold on power, but his grip has been loosened. In elections in April and September neither the right-wing Likud leader nor centrist challenger Benny Gantz secured a governing majority.
He remains caretaker prime minister and is under no legal obligation to resign once charged, according to Reuters. The opening of a trial could be delayed for months by a possible new election and any moves by Netanyahu to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
“This is a difficult and sad day,” Attorney General Mandelblit said, announcing the indictment in a televised statement.
Mandelblit, who was appointed to his post by Netanyahu, said he had a duty to Israel’s citizens to ensure that no one was above the law.