For months, Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to be charged: On Thursday night, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced charges against the Israeli Prime Minister for fraud, infidelity and corruption.
Netanyahu is accused of providing favors to Israel’s largest and leading telecommunications group Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage in its affiliate news website “Walla”, which is also one of the first Israeli internet portals, and is considered as one of the most popular websites in the country. As of October 2016, Alexa rankings put it in the top 9 sites by traffic originating in Israel.
Other allegations include hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of luxury gifts that Netanyahu and his relatives have received from wealthy individuals in exchange for financial and personal benefits. Netanyahu rejects all allegations.
“Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of providing favors to Israel’s leading telecom group Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage in its affiliate news website”
The indictment has made a unity government with a Likud under Netanyahu’s leadership even less likely. It remains to be seen, however, whether Netanyahu’s position at the top of the Likud remains undisputed, or whether there is an internal party revolt.
Meanwhile, for the first time in Israel’s history, none of the presidential nominees succeeded in forming a government; as before Benjamin Netanyahu had also on Wednesday night Benny Gantz return his mandate to the head of state Reuven Rivlin.
Now there are three weeks left in which, theoretically, every Knesset member can become Prime Minister – when at least 61 of the 120 MPs are behind him. Otherwise, it will be elected three months later.
On Thursday, when Rivlin briefed the Knesset on the beginning of the deadline, he called on politicians not to be guided by political considerations. Nevertheless, there are many indications that there is another option; it would be the third in a year.
The four weeks that Gantz had been available to forge a coalition had not ended much differently on Wednesday than they had begun with assurances from everyone that no one wanted such a third choice, but at the same time with a major blockade of the parties against each other and with serious allegations.
Above all, two constellations had stood in the room: on the one hand a “unity government” of Gantz’s centrist blue-white party and Netanyahu’s right likud; on the other hand, a minority government of blue-white and other parties, which is tolerated by deputies of the predominantly Arab “common list”.
Together with the left and Arab partners, Gantz would have won 54 votes in the Knesset. In order to prevail against 55 safe votes against Netanyahu’s right wing. Lieberman refused to cooperate until recently, both with Gantz and with Netanyahu.
Gantz and Netanyahu claimed that they were still prepared to form a grand coalition and accused each other of preventing this. On the blue-and-white side, Gantz’s deputies Yair Lapid and Mosche Yaalon were likely to be banned by a rotating leadership government in which Netanyahu was the first to hold the post of prime minister. They wanted to prevent him from enjoying the protection of the Office from prosecution.