Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally indicted on corruption charges Tuesday, just hours before he was set to meet President Donald Trump for the unveiling of the US administration’s long-anticipated Middle East plan.
Netanyahu has been charged with bribery and fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit submitted the indictment in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday shortly after Netanyahu withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity, a request he was almost certain to lose.
Netanyahu has insisted he is innocent, calling the investigations an “attempted coup” driven by the left and the media. The charges in court mean that Netanyahu will be the first sitting prime minister to face trial in the country’s history. A trial date has not been set yet, but the legal process could possibly take years. Under Israeli law, Netanyahu does not have to resign upon indictment. Instead, he only has to resign if he is convicted and that conviction is upheld through the appeals process.
The Knesset was due to start debating Tuesday whether to convene the committee tasked with weighing the immunity request. Lawmakers appeared certain to reject his bid, a factor likely to have influenced Netanyahu’s decision not to proceed. Rival Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White party emerged the largest in the Knesset after the last elections, said Netanyahu cannot lead the country and deal with his legal problems. “Netanyahu goes to trial. We must proceed,” Gantz said on Twitter. “The citizens of Israel have a clear choice — a Prime Minister that will work for them or a Prime Minister dealing with himself. No one can run a country and at the same time run three severe criminal cases on bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”
Voters have a third chance to decide the fate of the country in March, though opinion polls suggest little change on the previous two results.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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