Prosecutor Moves to Indict Netanyahu on Corruption Charges – The New York Times
That, in turn, has bolstered his leading opponent, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the former army chief of staff, and Mr. Gantzâs argument that Israel needs a clean, fresh start. âThank you for the last 10 years,â Mr. Gantz has taken to saying, addressing Mr. Netanyahu. âWeâll take it from here.â
Mr. Mandelblitâs decision could also hamper Mr. Netanyahu even if he does win re-election, by narrowing his options in forming a new governing coalition, and perhaps even sinking his chances of leading it.
His conservative Likud party would almost certainly need to join forces with several smaller parties to achieve a majority of at least 61 votes in the 120-seat Parliament. His current right-wing and ultra-Orthodox coalition allies have so far pledged to stick with him, at least until formal charges are lodged, but polls show some of them may not be elected.
A poll by The Times of Israel news site published on Thursday, ahead of Mr. Mandelblitâs announcement, showed that a decision to seek Mr. Netanyahuâs indictment would sharply alter the contest, giving Mr. Gantzâs party 44 seats in Parliament and Likud 25.
Mr. Netanyahu could also choose to step down as part of a plea agreement.
Mr. Mandelblitâs decision covered three separate investigations, though they followed a clear pattern.
In the first, the police said that the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, an expatriate Israeli, aided by the Australian billionaire James Packer, sent expensive cigars, jewelry and Champagne worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the prime ministerâs residence in Jerusalem, and that Mr. Netanyahu in return promoted legislation that could benefit Mr. Milchan, though it was blocked by the Finance Ministry.
In the second, Mr. Netanyahu was accused of discussing with the publisher of Yediot Ahronot, one of Israelâs biggest newspapers, the possibility of a deal for favorable coverage: He would press a competing newspaper, Israel Hayom, to curtail its free circulation, and in return Yediot Ahronot would treat Mr. Netanyahu more kindly. Israel Hayom is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the American billionaire casino owner who is a devoted supporter of Mr. Netanyahuâs.