Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on an assortment of charges, including breach of trust, bribery, and fraud.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit made the announcement on Thursday, marking the first time in the history of the modern state of Israel that a sitting prime minister has been indicted.
“This is a hard and sad day,” explained Mandelblit in a speech given before the Justice Ministry, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.
“I am bringing an indictment on public corruption against the prime minister in three cases. It is sad for me personally and for the country.”
Mandelblit also said that he admired the work of Netanyahu and this was “not a matter of left or right or of politics” or “a political issue,” but rather “our duty.”
“Out of a deep commitment to the law and the public interest, law enforcement is not something we can choose,” he continued.
“It is an obligation imposed on all of us — those who are part of law enforcement, and on me personally as the one who stands as its head. ... There is no man who is above the law.”
For his part, Netanyahu has denied the charges and argued in a televised address Thursday evening that the proceedings are nothing more than “a political coup.”
“I give my life to this state, I fought for it, I was wounded for it. I have to say this is a very hard day,” the prime minister said, NBC News reported. “This is a contaminated process, we need to investigate the investigators, they didn’t want the truth, they were after me personally.”
In February 2018, Israeli authorities recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on charges of breach of trust and bribery, following a 14-month investigation.
At issue are two cases, known as "Case 1000" and "Case 2000,” according to The Jerusalem Post. Case 1000 alleges that the prime minister improperly accepted high-priced gifts from various businessmen.
Case 2000 alleges that he engaged in an unethical quid pro quo deal with an Israeli publisher, requesting favorable coverage in return for supporting legislation that would have harmed a rival of the publisher.
Netanyahu also faces a charge stemming from “Case 4000,” another media bribery scheme in which he allegedly received positive coverage from news company Walla in return for Netanyahu making government policies favoring owner Shaul Elovitch’s Bezeq company.
The indictment has further complicated efforts on the part of Netanyahu to form a coalition government following the September elections and, according to some commentators, will lead to another round of elections in March, according to The Associated Press.