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22.11.2019 Europe

Israel's Netanyahu charged with corruption

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
NOV 22, 2019 EUROPE
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to stand trial on corruption charges, the country's attorney general has said. Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, in a move throwing his political future into doubt and deepening the country's paralysis.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he was indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a set of long-running corruption cases, which have loomed over Israeli politics for two years.

Netanyahu is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage.

He has rejected the charges as false and politically motivated by his left-wing opponents and the media.

He has also insisted he will not resign and is not legally obliged to do so, but political pressure is likely to be intense.

The announcement comes amid political uncertainty after two inconclusive general elections, with a third vote potentially around the corner.

Neither Netanyahu nor his centrist rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government for nearly a year, following deadlocked elections in April and September.

Future in doubt

The criminal case against him could make it far more difficult for him to retain power.

It has already helped fuel the rise of the Blue and White party, led by Gantz, whose animating idea was that the allegations disqualified Netanyahu from continuing to serve.

Right-winger Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, is Israel's longest-serving prime minister and dominates the country's political scene.

He is the first sitting Premier to be charged while in office.

Netanyahu may now ask the Israeli parliament or Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution.