By MARCY OSTER
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s attorney general filed an indictment on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery against Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan 28., hours after the prime minister withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit filed the charges in three corruption cases against Netanyahu in Jerusalem District Court, the Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported. Netanyahu denies the charges. It marks the first time that a sitting Israeli prime minister has been indicted.
Netanyahu, who was in Washington, D.C., for meetings with President Donald Trump regarding his administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, withdrew his request for immunity hours before the Knesset was scheduled to vote on, and pass, a decision to form a committee to debate his immunity request, which was nearly assured of being rejected.
Filing of the indictment comes five weeks before national elections in Israel.
Netanyahu said in a Facebook post that the charges are “personal persecution” against him and “cheap politics that harms a decisive moment in the history of the country.”
“During this fateful time for the people of Israel, while I am in the United States on a historic mission to shape Israel’s permanent borders and ensure our security for future generations, another Knesset show is expected to begin in the immunity circus,” he wrote.
“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.”
Netanyahu’s main rival in the March 2 elections, Blue and White head Benny Gantz, said in a statement that “Netanyahu is going to trial — we must move forward. Israel’s citizens have a clear choice: A prime minister who will work for them or a prime minister working for himself.”
Netanyahu can continue to run for office while under indictment.