Israeli opposition tell Netanyahu to step down over corruption scandals

Israeli opposition tell Netanyahu to step down over corruption scandals
Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been given further ammunition in the upcoming April election after plans to indict Netanyahu on three charges were announced.

3 min read
28 February, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's main challenger has said Israel is worthy of more [Getty Images]

Binyamin Netanyahu's main opponent in upcoming elections called on Thursday for the Israeli prime minister to resign to fight corruption allegations, after Israel's attorney general reportedly announced he intended to indict Netanyahu. 

The long awaited announcement of indictment, based on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, comes just weeks ahead of April elections.

Appearing on national TV, Benny Gantz said that being prime minister cannot be a "part-time job" and said Netanyahu should conduct his legal battle after stepping down.

He also called on Netanyahu to stop attacking state institutions, such as police and prosecutors, who have investigated him. "The state of Israel is worthy of more than this," he said.

Gantz, a former military chief, leads a centrist party that is in a close race with Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the upcoming elections. He said his "Blue and White" party would not join in a coalition with Netanyahu after the election.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said earlier on Thursday he had accepted police recommendations to file charges against Netanyahu in three different cases, pending a final hearing in which Netnayahu would be given a chance to defend himself before charges are filed.

In a Justice Ministry statement, Mandelblit says he plans to charge Netanyahu with bribery for pursuing regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage from a related media company.

He will also charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases. The first involves accepting gifts such as cigars and champagne from billionaire friends, in exchange for financial or personal favours.

The second revoles around Netanyahu allegedly seeking a secret deal with a top-selling Israeli newspaper  to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival.

Netanyahu is not required to step down if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

He denies any wrongdoing and calls the allegations a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office. He said he planned on being prime minister for a long time to come despite the allegations.

"The left knows it cannot beat us at the polling booth, so for the past three years they have been carrying out an unprecedented witch hunt which has one aim: to topple the right-wing government which I lead," he said.

Recent developments will further shake up the turbulent political campaign and threaten Netanyahu's lengthy tenure at the top of Israeli politics.

Netyanhu has been prime minister for 13 years, and would be on track to surpass  David Ben-Gurion as Israel's longest-serving premier should he win in April.

An indictment would mark the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged.