Israel Braces for Decision on Netanyahu Corruption Indictment

Rabbi Meir Kahane at the Knesset

Rabbi Meir Kahane at the Knesset

Israel's attorney general intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases, according to multiple media reports, citing the justice ministry.

The reported decision, ahead of Israel's April 9 election, deepens uncertainty over Netanyahu's prospects in a tight race.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

A recent poll by the Israeli website The Times of Israel predicted that Mr Netanyahu's Likud would lose four parliamentary seats if the prime minister was indicted, while Mr Gantz's coalition, known as the Blue and White Party, could gain enough seats to take the premiership.

This is a developing story, more soon.

The Post has learned that Mandelblit would not push for the prime minister to step down. Elovitch, a close friend of the Israeli leader, is alleged to have ordered the Walla news site to provide more favorable coverage of the Netanyahus in return.

Likud had petitioned the Supreme Court to delay the public release of the indictment until after the election. Both Packer and Milchan deny wrongdoing.

"We respect the attorney general's decision, but as the attorney general said in his own words that he will come to the hearing with 'an open heart and a willing soul, ' so will we wait for the end of the hearing".

The campaign now appears to be morphing into a referendum on Netanyahu as he seeks to become the longest-serving premier in Israeli history.

With Israelis set to cast their votes in April, the indictment comes at a crucial time for Netanyahu.

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If Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit decides to press charges, which expert expect he will do, it would be the first time a sitting prime minister in Israel has been indicted.

Second, he's facing more possible breach of trust and fraud charges charge - for trying to strike a deal with a newspaper publisher to advance legislation to help the publisher's business, in exchange for giving Netanyahu positive media coverage.

Benjamin Netanyahu has had a long career in Israeli politics.

News of the deal went down badly among Netanyahu's powerful supporters in the USA, including influential lobby group AIPAC, which broke from tradition to criticise a sitting Israeli prime minister.

Case 1000 involves gifts from foreign billionaires in return for favours, while Case 2000 alleges that Netanyahu colluded with one newspaper to hamstring a competitor in return for favourable coverage.

So for three years it has engaged in an unprecedented political witch hunt with one objective only: "To topple the right-wing government I lead and put in power the left-wing party of [Yair] Lapid and Benny [Gantz]".

Netanyahu rushed back Wednesday from a diplomatic mission to Moscow, and a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, to prepare for his expected rebuttal to the charges on Thursday.

In the statement from his official residence that lasted about 20 minutes, Netanyahu's voice seemed to break with emotion as he spoke of his family, which he said had been smeared by the investigations.

"The choice is sharp as a razor-a weak Left-wing government of Lapid and Gantz with the Arabs, or a strong government in my leadership", Netanyahu said.

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