Israeli PM drops defiant response | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 02, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, March 02, 2019


Israeli PM drops defiant response

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's long reign atop Israeli politics has earned him the nickname "King Bibi," but a decision ahead of April elections to indict him on corruption charges may be his biggest challenge yet.

After Israel's attorney general announced Thursday night he intended to charge the prime minister with bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending a hearing, Netanyahu showed characteristic defiance in a televised statement.

He blamed his political opponents for what he called a "witch hunt" intended to force him from office -- though he appointed the attorney general who issued the decision.

In the 20-minute statement, a campaign banner reading "Netanyahu Strong Right" behind him, he called the investigations a "house of cards" meant to "influence the elections."

"Netanyahu will not resign," said Ilan Greilsammer, political science professor at the University of Tel Aviv.

"There is a family-like culture in Israel, and for Likud's electoral base, Netanyahu is family," he said of the premier's right-wing party.

Netanyahu is not legally required to resign if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

But the announcement by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit comes with Netanyahu facing a serious challenge from a centrist political alliance led by former armed forces chief of staff Benny Gantz in an April 9 general election.

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