Decision could severely injury Israeli PMs chances in Aprils general election

Israel's us attorney general has announced his intention to indict the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in three corruption cases.

The decision comes simply six weeks before the Israeli general election and could severely damage Netanyahu's chances in a tight race.

Avichai Mandelblit's long-awaited proclamation signals his intent to prosecute the first ministers with criminal wrongdoing in all the cases against him, in which he has been accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Under Israeli law, Netanyahu can defend himself in a pre-trial hearing before the charges are formally filed in tribunal , and potentially persuade the attorney general to have them fell. It is not clear if that process will begin before the election on 9 April but it will likely take many months.

However, the weight of proclamation throws serious doubt over his political future.

He has denied all accusations, dismissing them as one of the purposes of a witch-hunt orchestrated by the press. Speaking on Thursday evening, Netanyahu said in a televised statement that” this entire house of cards will collapse “.

The country's second-longest serving premier who runs the most right-wing government in its history, Netanyahu has already been pledged not to resign if indicted. He would be under no legal obligation to do so.

He warned the legal occurrence against him was a political gambit by leftist foes” simply to topple the right wing and create the left to the premiership. There is no other explanation .”

Netanyahu went on to say that the accusations were lies and a” blood libel “.

Fearing the impact on the upcoming election, the prime minister's right-wing Likud party petitioned the high court on Thursday in last-minute attempt to block the proclamation, but it was rejected.

The party later described the charges as” political persecution “.

” Unilateral publication of the attorney general's announcement just a month before the elections, without giving the first ministers an opportunity to refute these false accusations, is a blatant and unprecedented intervention in the elections ,” Likud said in a statement.

During two years of intense deliberations and questionings, police have already recommended that Netanyahu, be indicted in all three cases.

He could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year word for fraud and breach of trust.

Case 1,000 involves allegations of receiving gifts, including expensive cigars, pink champagne and jewellery, from international billionaires allegedly in return for prefers. In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is accused of colluding with the country's top-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage.

The third and most serious suit, 4,000, involves accusations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecom provider Bezeq in exchange for positive tales in an online news website it owns, Walla.

It would be the first time that a sitting prime minister has been charged. A poll by the Times of Israel found that the decision could lose Netanyahu four seats in the election and scupper his chances of forming a alliance government.

The poll indicated the newly formed Blue and White party, run by retired army chief Benny Gantz, could see a major jump in its Knesset seats, placing it in a strong position to kind a coalition.

Further hurting Netanyahu's run for reelection, several key allies of the prime minister have said they will not support him if the attorney general goes forward with an indictment.

Netanyahurushed back on Wednesday from a trip to Moscow where he met with President Vladimir Putin to prepare for the possible fallout.

Hours ahead of the proclamation, the embattled Israeli leader received support from his ally, the US president Donald Trump.

” I just think he's been a great prime minister and I don't know about his difficulty ,” he said in response to a question in Hanoi.

” I can say this, that he's done a great undertaking as prime minister. He's tough, he's smart, he's strong ,” Trump said.

Separately, Sara Netanyahu was charged last year with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly overspending approximately $100,000( PS78, 000) on private meals at the prime minister's official residence, even though there was a full-time chef on faculty. She denies the accusations, and the case is ongoing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com