“The State of Israel v. Benjamin, son of Benzion Netanyahu.”
That is how the indictment filed for the first time in Israeli history against a sitting prime minister opened, after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit handed down a harsh and severe charge sheet on Thursday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The indictment will significantly impact the ongoing efforts to form a coalition before December 11 when the period of 21 days expires.
Mandelblit will now ask the Knesset to waive Netanyahu‘s immunity, a process which can take 30 days.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted Thursday in a series of corruption cases, throwing Israel’s paralyzed political system into further disarray and threatening his 10-year grip on power. He rejected calls to resign, angrily accusing prosecutors of staging “an attempted coup.”
The first-ever charges against a sitting Israeli prime minister capped a three-year investigation, with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit indicting Netanyahu for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.
“A day in which the attorney general decides to serve an indictment against a seated prime minister for serious crimes of corrupt governance is a heavy and sad day, for the Israeli public and for me personally,” Mandelblit, who was appointed by Netanyahu, told reporters.
The Israeli prime minister has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a politically orchestrated “witch hunt.”
In 2008, the police were closing in on Ehud Olmert. Say what you want about him – he brought shame to Israel, or he was corrupt – it makes no difference. He understood already then that he couldn’t continue as prime minister. That is why on July 30, 2008, Olmert announced his resignation, and in March 2009 following an election in which he didn’t run, he was replaced by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Olmert’s decision was not easy, but he understood that he could not remain in office with an ongoing police investigation and an indictment on the way. When he stepped down there was only a police recommendation that he be charged. An indictment would be filed in August 2009, five months after he left office.
Netanyahu is a different matter. The harsh and severe indictment filed against him on Thursday night came while he is still serving as prime minister. This is an unhealthy situation, one that is bad for the government, bad for Netanyahu, and bad for the State of Israel.
Netanyahu has every right to fight for his innocence and he should. In a democracy, every person is innocent until proven guilty. But the nation needs to come first. After 71 years of statehood and 2,000 years of yearning, Israel is too precious to be dragged through the mud and destroyed from within. It is incumbent upon Netanyahu to do the right thing.
I know about Basic Law: Government, which clearly states that a prime minister is allowed to remain in office even after he or she is indicted, and only needs to step down once a final verdict is handed down. Not a verdict in the first court that hears the case but in the appeal, or the appeal on the appeal. Basically, in a long time.