By Israel Hayom—
Israel’s political system came to the brink of a historic crisis on Thursday after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced plans to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges.
Thursday morning saw President Reuven Rivlin hand Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein the mandate to form the government – an unprecedented step taken only after neither Netanyahu nor challenger Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were able to cobble together a coalition. Under Israeli law, parliament now has 21 days to form a government and if it fails, Israelis will go to the polls for the third time in one year.
Mendelblit’s decision to indict a sitting prime minister for fraud and breach of trust is the first of its kind for Israel. It will also all but assure a third election be called, plunging Israel deeper into political disarray.
Netanyahu, in power since 2009, has dominated Israeli politics for a generation and is the country’s longest-serving leader. He has denied wrongdoing in three corruption cases, saying he is the victim of a political witch hunt.
The indictment posed no immediate threat to his decade-long hold on power, a grip loosened by elections in April and September in which neither the right-wing Likud leader nor centrist challenger Benny Gantz secured a governing majority.
Netanyahu remains the caretaker prime minister and is under no legal obligation to resign once charged. The opening of a trial could be delayed for months by a possible new election and any moves by Netanyahu to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
The introduction of criminal charges could further complicate not only the resolution of the prolonged political stalemate but also the eventual rollout of the US administration’s long-delayed Middle East peace plan, as it may be hampered by the uncertain political future of one of the key players whose support is needed. Continue Reading….