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  • A woman walks past a banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the words

    A woman walks past a banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the words "Crime Minister" outside the Justice Ministry as pre-trial hearings in corruption cases against Netanyahu continue, in Jerusalem October 3, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 November 2019

As of today, Netanyahu holds the agriculture, health, social affairs, and diaspora affairs portfolios.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to relinquish the four ministerial posts he currently holds in the coming days following the indictment against him for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, according to a report published Saturday by Haaretz. 

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Israel's PM Netanyahu Charged in 3 Corruption Cases

On Thursday Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit indicted the premier for the long-running investigations dubbed Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000. Under Israel's law, Netanyahu does not have to resign despite being charged but according to a 1993 legal precedent, a minister cannot continue to serve under an indictment.

As of today, Netanyahu holds the agriculture, health, social affairs, and diaspora affairs portfolios. On Friday, Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White called on Mandelblit to order Netanyahu to immediately give up the four ministerial posts.

Since Netanyahu is the first leader in Israel’s history to face criminal charges while in office, the courts will likely be compelled to debate the issue. While both the Labor party and the Movement for Quality Government said they would appeal to the High Court of Justice to force the prime minister to step down, with further petitions expected.

Meanwhile, the opening of a trial could be delayed for months by a possible new election and any moves by Netanyahu to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu is suspected of wrongfully accepting US$264,000 worth of gifts from tycoons and of allegedly dispensing favors in return for favorable stories about him in Israel's biggest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and the Walla website.

Case 4000, the most serious of the three, alleges that Netanyahu granted regulatory favors worth about 1.8 billion shekels (about US$500 million) to Israel's leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel.

In return, Mandelblit said, Netanyahu and his wife often received positive coverage on the Walla site, which is owned by Bezeq's former chairman, Shaul Elovitch.

He indicted Netanyahu on charges of breach of trust and fraud in all three corruption cases against him, as well as bribery in Case 4000.

Netanyahu, in power since 2009, has denied wrongdoing in three corruption cases, claiming he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

As the corruption scandal unveils, Israel has been effectively plunged into even greater political uncertainty, as Gantz failed the main political challenger to Netanyahu, failed to form the country’s next governing coalition as of Wednesday’s deadline; as incumbent PM from the far-right Likud party Netanyahu failed to do so for the second time back in September.

Since neither Netanyahu nor Gantz secured a ruling majority in parliament in elections in April and September, they had to depend on the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party headed by Avigdor Lieberman, who has reiterated his opposition to ultra-orthodox Jewish parties that support Likud thus denying any backing to Netanyahu.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lieberman, known now as Israel's kingmaker, said he would not support any kind of minority government, either one backed by the Arab parties or a narrow one with the 55-seat right-wing bloc backing Netanyahu.

"As things stand now, we are on the way to another election," Lieberman said, raising the stakes for a third election within a year, a first in Israel's history as well as the fact that two candidates have failed to form a coalition. 

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