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Netanyahu Indicted
An activist smokes a cigarette next to a big doll of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, April 2019. (Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Netanyahu Indicted

For the first time in Israel’s history, a sitting prime minister has been indicted. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday afternoon – just hours before Binyamin Netanyahu was slated to meet with US President Donald Trump at the White House for the unveiling of the administration’s peace proposal – submitted to the Jerusalem District Court indictments against the prime minister in three separate criminal cases. Each case involves charges of breach of public trust, while one also involves the far more serious charge of bribery. The move came after Netanyahu earlier in the day revoked his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution in what the opposition hailed as a major victory. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, had been set to hold a vote to create a committee to debate the immunity bid, which almost certainly would have been rejected given that a majority of lawmakers are on record opposing the prime minister’s request. “Since I was not given due process, because all the rules of the Knesset were trampled on, and since the results of the procedure were pre-dictated without proper discussion, I decided not to allow this dirty game to continue,” the prime minister wrote on his Facebook page when announcing the decision. The development is nevertheless being viewed as a blow to Netanyahu, whose Likud party is trailing Benny Gantz’s Blue and White list in the polls ahead of Israel’s March 2 national election. It also sets up a possible confrontation with Mandelblit, who may be asked by the Supreme Court to draft a legal opinion on whether a prime minister under indictment can form the next government. While Israeli law technically allows a prime minister to remain in power until convicted and exhausting all appeals, no court has ever debated whether such an individual can form an entirely new government.

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