Israel’s attorney general indicted Benjamin Netanyahu on a range of corruption charges, the justice ministry announced, potentially spelling an end to the prime minister’s decades-long political career.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit “decided to file charges against the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for offences of receiving a bribe, fraud, and breach of trust,” a ministry statement said on Thursday local time.
It said a note of the decision and a copy of the charges had been provided to the premier’s lawyers.
Mr Netanyahu, who strongly denies all the charges, becomes the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted while in office.
He is not legally required to resign, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted, but political pressure is likely to be intense.
Netanyahu denounced what he called the “false” and “politically motivated” allegations, hours after being charged by the attorney general with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” Netanyahu said.
“The object of the investigations was to oust the right wing from government.”
In a 15-minute speech, Netanyahu railed against his political rivals and state institutions, accusing the police and judiciary of bias.
The veteran politician argued that it was time for an “investigation of the investigators”.
He vowed to continue as prime minister despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.
“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said.
“I will not allow lies to win.”
Rightwinger Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and dominates the country’s political scene.
The decision comes as Mr Netanayhu, a close ally of US President Donald Trump, is fighting for his political life.
Israeli been without a government for nearly a year, with neither Mr Netanyahu nor his centrist rival Benny Gantz able to form a coalition government following deadlocked elections in April and September.