Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Thursday evening the decision by Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to charge him for bribery pending a hearing, blaming it on pressure from the left wing.
"The have applied endless pressures on the attorney general in order for him to say that he is recommending to indict me for bribery pending a hearing, even when there is nothing. The left's pressure succeeded," Netanyahu said.
"Something terrible has happened here and it is hurting Israeli democracy," Netanyahu charged. "For the first time in the country's history we are going to a hearing before the election, just to topple the right wing and raise the left to the premiership. There is no other explanation."
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Netanyahu said that under his leadership, Israel has seen the best decade in its history in the fields of security, foreign policy and finance. "We did not do it by bowing our heads, but by constantly cultivating our strength," Netanyahu said.
"The left knows that with such feats, they can't beat us in the ballot. That's why for three years they have been carrying out political persecution against us in order to topple the right-wing government."
According to Netanyahu, the decision won't influence most Likud voters, "but if it does influence a few, the left – heaven forbid – will rise to power."
Netanyahu also thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for comments he made earlier on Thursday, saying: "The connection with leaders of world powers cannot be taken for granted. I have been building it for years and it is helping me ensure the safety of our country and our future."
Speaking at a press conference in Vietnam following a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump had called Netanyahu "tough, smart, strong" in response to a question about the upcoming Israeli election.
The prime minister then took a more personal approach and accused the prosecution of attacking his family. "They are going after my wife and son, they are putting my family through three years of hell. This campaign started with an attempt to smear me and my wife with six cases of bribery," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu called the cases pending against him fake and vowed nothing will come of them. "There is one law for everyone and a separate law for Netanyahu. I’m telling you, people of Israel, this entire house of cards will topple and I am entirely sure of it. I plan to keep on serving as the prime minister for many years to come," Netanyahu said.
Addressing the upcoming election on April 9, Netanyahu said, "The choice is simple and sharp as a knife: A weak left-wing government headed by Gantz and supported by the Arab parties, or a strong right-wing government headed by me. Many have you have told me: Bibi don’t break, be strong. And I am not breaking."
Mendelblit announced earlier Thursday that Netanyahu should be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases.
■ In Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of providing regulatory concessions to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecommunications, in exchange for favorable coverage from Bezeq’s news website, Walla. The charge: Bribery and breach of trust.
■ In Case 1000, in which the prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy business figures in return for political favors, the charges are fraud and breach of trust.
■ In Case 2000, which centers around a deal between the prime minister and Arnon Mozes – favorable coverage in return for damaging Sheldon Adelson's competing newspaper, Israel Hayom. The charge: Breach of trust and fraud.
Mendelblit's decision comes after three years of investigations, and it marks the first time in Israel's history that an attorney general announces an indictment for bribery against an incumbent prime minister.
"You have hurt the image of public service and public faith in it," Mendelblit wrote to Netanyahu in his decision. "You acted in a conflict of interests, you abused your authority while taking into account other considerations that relate to your personal interests and the interests of your family. You corrupted public servants working under you."
Netanyahu's Likud party released a statement slamming the decision, which it called "political persecution." Likud blasted the attorney general for the timing of the publication of his decision.
"A publication of the decision a mere month before the election, without giving the prime minister an opportunity to refute these false claims is a blatant and unprecedented interference in the election. It has one goal: to topple the right-wing government headed by Netanyahu so as to give rise to a left-wing government headed by Lapid and Gantz. We cannot let this happen."
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