Fighting for his job, Benjamin Netanyahu goes on the offensive against corruption allegations

Israeli Prime Minister's anticipated 'dramatic statement' simply recycled his old claims against the police and prosecutors


Benjamin Netanyahu is going all-out in an effort to prevent Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit from announcing his decision on potential indictments against him before the April 9 Knesset election.

On Monday evening, the prime minister delivered what was billed as a “dramatic statement” from his offices in Jerusalem — but it turned out to be little more than a recycling of his old claims against the police and prosecutors.

There will come a moment at some point in February that could decide not only the election but the fate of Mr Netanyahu.

Defying earlier expectations, the attorney general is now scheduled to announce his decision on the three criminal investigations against the prime minister next month.

The consensus in the Justice Ministry is that Mr Mandelblit will endorse the recommendations — by not only the police but the district and state attorney offices — to indict Mr Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in at least two of the corruption cases.

A potential decision to indict does not mean that the prime minister will have to resign. Hearings will have to be scheduled first and, even if the decision becomes final, Israeli law does not expressly forbid him from remaining in office.

But it will be a political earthquake nevertheless.

No serving Israeli prime minister has ever been indicted in office. In previous cases where they were under suspicion, they either resigned in advance of a potential indictment or the attorney general decided not to charge them.

It also means that even if Mr Netanyahu’s Likud was to win the election — as the polls are predicting — it will be extremely difficult to form a lasting government, as a number of party leaders of potential coalition partners have already made it clear that they won’t serve under an indicted prime minister.

In his televised statement on Monday, the prime minister said that it would be unjust for the attorney general to announce his intentions before the election, when there would not be sufficient time for a court hearing and for Mr Netanyahu to respond to the allegations.

He has made the same claim repeatedly over the last few days — including at a press conference during his visit last week to Brazil and in a video posted to his Facebook page.

But on Monday he added something new: that he had twice been refused the opportunity to confront the witnesses testifying against him. However under Israeli law, no suspect has this right.

Israel’s Justice Ministry responded in a statement saying that “all the stages of the investigation have been carried professionally and scrupulously.”

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