Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three separate cases, the country’s attorney general announced.
Benjamin Netanyahu is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favors to try to get more positive press coverage.
He described the charges as an “attempted coup”, blaming them on a “tainted” process.
The prime minister has also insisted he will not resign and is not legally obliged to do so.
In a TV speech, Benjamin Netanyahu said authorities “weren’t after the truth, they were after me”, and called on the country to “investigate the investigators”.
Earlier, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he made the decision “with a heavy heart”, but said it showed nobody was above the law in Israel.
He said: “Law enforcement is not a choice. It is not a matter of right or left. It’s not a matter of politics.”
The announcement comes amid a political stand-off in Israel following two inconclusive general elections in April and September.
On November 20, Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival for the premiership, Benny Gantz, said he had been unable to form a governing coalition with a majority in parliament. He had been given the opportunity to try after Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier failed to do so.
On November 21, President Reuven Rivlin asked lawmakers to agree on a candidate for prime minister within 21 days and avoid an unprecedented third election in a year.
After the charges were announced, Benny Gantz tweeted his support for the attorney general and law enforcement agencies, and wrote it was “a very sad day” for Israel.
In February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said that he intended to indict Benjamin Netanyahu in connection with three cases – known as Case 1,000, Case 2,000 and Case 4,000 – pending final hearings that eventually took place in October.
It is unclear what this means for the prime minister’s future.
Benjamin Netanyahu is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise, and there is currently no legal barrier to him staying in office as prime minister.
It could take many months before the cases are brought before a district court. And even if convicted, Benjamin Netanyahu would not be required to step down until the appeals process was exhausted – something that could take years.