Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a televised statement Thursday night, following Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's decision to back indictments against Netanyahu in three criminal investigations into allegations of corruption.
Netanyahu rejected the Attorney General's decision to charge him with fraud, breach of trust, and - pending a hearing with Netanyahu - one charge of bribery.
The Prime Minister said prosecutors were actively working to interfere with the upcoming Knesset election, and vowed to refute the allegations against him.
"Have no doubts, I will refute all of these accusations," Netanyahu said, adding that similar cases against his political rivals had been dismissed in the past.
"What about Yair Lapid? He received many gifts?" Netanyahu said, citing what he claimed were similar circumstances to his own Case 1000 investigation. There is one law for Netanyahu, and another for everyone else."
Netanyahu claimed that after a decade in office, the Left believed that the only way it could remove him from power was through the indictments.
“We transformed Israel into a rising world power, and we did it without compromises.
“The Left knows that with these accomplishments they could never defeat us at the polls. So they made a political witch hunt for the past three years, an unprecedented witch hunt with a single goal – to topple the right-wing government and to install the party of Lapid and Gantz to power.
“Something very serious has happened to Israeli democracy. For the first time ever, they’re making a hearing [in a criminal investigation] just days ahead of an election. Every citizen knows that the timing of this is scandalous and is intended to topple the right and bring the left to power. That is the goal. To inundate the public with ridiculous and evil claims against me, with me not having the ability to refute the charges against me now, rather only after the election.
“I’ll refute them all, from the first to the last. But we must not let this pressure win at the ballot box. Most Likud voters, whose intelligence is being insulted by the media, this [witch hunt] won’t affect them. But it is enough that it might affect a few of them, then the Left could win.”
Earlier on Thursday, Mandelblit announced that Netanyahu would face charges of breach of trust and fraud in the Case 1000 and 2000 investigations. Netanyahu could also face bribery charges in the Case 4000 investigation, Mandelblit said – but only after Netanyahu is invited to face the allegations against him in a hearing.
While all three cases had originally focused on allegations of bribery, Mandelblit found no basis for bribery charges in the first two cases against the Prime Minister. In the Case 4000, investigation, however, Mandeblit said he is prepared to green-light the indictment on bribery charges following the hearing with Netanyahu.
Case 1000, sometimes referred to as the “Gifts Investigation” or the “Champagne Scandal”, revolves around claims Netanyahu offered favors in exchange for the roughly one million shekels ($275,000) in gifts he received, mostly from businessman Arnon Milchan.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is alleged to have backed a bill in the Knesset which would have barred the Israel Hayom newspaper from being distributed freely, to the benefit of the paper’s rival, Yediot Ahronot. In exchange, it was alleged, Netanyahu was offered favorable coverage in Yediot.
In the Case 4000 investigation, Netanyahu is alleged to have offered to advance regulatory changes beneficial to the Bezeq telecom company in exchange for favorable coverage at a news site owned by Bezeq’s controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch.