Netanyahu says graft allegations a 'witch hunt' to topple him

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called corruption allegations a "witch hunt" meant to topple him after the attorney general announced plans to indict him.

Speaking in a televised statement a couple of hours after the attorney general's announcement, Netanyahu said he planned on being prime minister for a long time to come despite the allegations.

"The left knows it cannot beat us at the polling booth, so for the past three years they have been carrying out an unprecedented witch hunt which has one aim: to topple the right-wing government which I lead," he said.

The attorney general's announcement comes ahead of April 9 elections in which Netanyahu is facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance led by a former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said in a statement earlier Thursday that he intended to indict the premier for bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending a hearing, where Netanyahu would be given a chance to defend himself before charges are filed.