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Israeli voters would be unmoved by pre-election indictment of Netanyahu: poll

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is investigating the police recommendations urging Netanyahu's indictment for bribery in three separate cases -- dubbed Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000.
(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

A decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption and bribery charges ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections would not influence the number of seats his right-wing Likud party earns, the results of a new poll indicates.

The survey conducted by the Maariv daily shows that Likud would still win as many as 30 seats in parliament even if Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit initiates a hearing on the premier’s potential indictment before voters take to the ballot box.

The poll projects Likud with a firm grip on power, earning 30 seats in parliament, followed by the Joint (Arab) List party far behind with 13 seats.

Israel’s crumbling center-left opposition continued to flounder with the poll projecting Yair Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid party and former IDF chief-of-staff Benny Gantz’s Israeli Resilience Party each earning 12 seats.

The Labor Party, still reeling from its leader’s dramatic fallout with partner Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, would only earn 8 seats if it heads to the ballots solo -- a dismal projection compared to the 24 seats it held in the last government as part of the Zionist Union alliance.

While the poll showed Likud poised for electoral victory even as the threat of a potential indictment against its leader loomed, another poll conducted by The Jerusalem Post earlier in the week found that more than half of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign as premier if charged with criminal offenses.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Another 34 percent said he would not need to step down while 15 percent were indifferent or did not know.

In a video statement posted to Twitter on Thursday, Netanyahu said that the Attorney General should not initiate hearings related to the charges if the procedures will extend beyond the April 9 elections.

“It is unacceptable that the public will only hear the claims of one side and not the other,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader, who investigators have recommended to be tried in at least three separate corruption cases, went on to accuse “the left” of applying years of “thuggish and inhumane pressure” on Mandelblit to announce an indictment.

“They are trying to force the Attorney General to undertake gross interference in the election by inviting me to a [pre-indictment] hearing, when it’s known in advance that the hearing cannot be finished before the election," he charged.

Marc Israel SELLEM (AFP/File)

Legally, Netanyahu could continue to serve as prime minister if indicted. He is not required to step down -- only if he is convicted with all appeals exhausted -- and reports have cited sources close to the premier as saying that he intends to remain in his position even if forced to do so through a public criminal trial.

Police have recommended Netanyahu’s indictment in three separate cases -- dubbed Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000 -- which deal with various incidence of bribery, fraud, as well as quid pro quo arrangements for favorable press coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

In “Case 1,000”, police allege Netanyahu accepted around 1 million shekels ($280,000) worth of luxury gifts from a number of wealthy benefactors in exchange for favorable government treatment.

“Case 2,000” centers on an alleged arrangement with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to limit circulation of the newspaper's main rival in exchange for more favorable coverage.

In “Case 4000”, police suspect that Netanyahu granted regulatory benefits to telecommunications giant Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage by the Walla news website, which is owned by the telecom firm’s controlling shareholder.

Netanyahu has spurned police recommendations for his indictment as part of a “witch hunt” against him and his family by political rivals and a hostile media seeking to topple him.

For more, check out our full Israel Election 2019 coverage!

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