Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly set to be indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges just six weeks ahead of April's general election; a decision that could severely hurt his chances to secure a fifth term in office, The Guardian and other outlets are reporting.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's long-awaited decision is expected to materialize on Thursday, pending a hearing, according to a source with direct information about the Mandelblit's decision, reports CNN. The charges arise from three separate corruption cases.
As per Israeli law, Netanyahu has the right to defend himself in a pre-trial hearing before charges are formally filed in court, according to The Guardian report, though it is unclear whether that process will begin before the election of April 9. However, the weight of the announcement throws serious doubt over Netanyahu's political future, the report notes.
The prime minister has previously pledged not to resign if indictments were brought forth, which suggests Netanyahu's coalition partners will likely have to decide whether to support a leader who is potentially headed for indictment or withdraw their support and risk alienating their shared right-wing voter base, CNN argues. At the same time, Netanyahu's opponents will likely look to exploit this heightened sense of damage to the prime minister's reputation, the report further argues.Netanyahu, who is the country's second-longest serving premier, is not required to step down if indicted under Israeli law, CNN points out. He is required to resign only if he is convicted on the alleged crimes and if that conviction is upheld through the appeals process, which generally takes years.
Netanyahu has repeatedly and vehemently denied any wrongdoing, including on Wednesday evening when a statement was released on his behalf, following a day of heightened speculation in Israeli news media. In the statement, the prime minister dismissed the prospect of a possible bribery charge as "ridiculous."
According to The Times of Israel, Netanyahu has contended he is the victim of a witch hunt brought forth by the left-wing opposition with the support of the left-wing media and a biased police force. As per the report, Mandelblit was appointed by Netanyahu himself, though the prime minister now calls the attorney general "weak" for caving into the left's pressure.
If Netanyahu is indeed indicted, it would mark the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged with a crime, according to The Los Angeles Times.
When asked about Netanyahu's forthcoming indictment, Trump said he doesn't know about any of it, Vox reporter Aaron Rupar tweeted early Thursday.