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The Latest: Israeli PM Netanyahu rejects indictment

JERUSALEM – The Latest on Israeli political developments (all times local):

8:55 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected his indictment on an array of corruption charges, saying the country is witnessing an “attempted coup” against him.

In a defiant statement Thursday, Netanyahu said the indictment stemmed from “false accusations” and a systematically “tainted investigation.”

He spoke after the attorney general announced his indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three long-running corruption cases.

Netanyahu was unable to form a government following unprecedented back-to-back elections this year, in part because of his legal woes, and a third vote could be held within months.

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7:50 p.m.

Israel’s attorney general says the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “heavy-hearted decision” based solely on professional considerations.

Addressing reporters Thursday, Avichai Mandelblit rejected suggestions that the indictment was politically motivated.

He angrily criticized pressure campaigns by Netanyahu’s supporters and foes to sway his decision, which came after months of deliberations.

Netanyahu has called the corruption charges a witch hunt and repeatedly lashed out at police and prosecutors throughout the investigation.

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7:30 p.m.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rival says the indicted prime minister has “no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for the state of Israel.”

Former army chief Benny Gantz said in a statement Thursday the indictment raises concerns that Netanyahu “will make decisions in his own personal interest and for his political survival and not in the national interest.”

Netanyahu and Gantz were virtually tied after September’s elections and each failed to assemble a majority coalition in parliament. The country now appears headed into an unprecedented third round of elections in less than a year, in part because of Netanyahu’s legal woes.

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6:35 p.m.

Israel’s attorney general has formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption scandals.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issued an indictment Thursday charging Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He was scheduled to address reporters later Thursday.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and said he is a victim of a witch hunt.

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5:15 p.m.

Israel’s Justice Ministry says the attorney general will deliver his long-awaited decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit scheduled a 7:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) news conference Thursday to announce his decision.

Criminal charges would not force Netanyahu to resign, but they would likely fuel calls for him to step down.

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2 p.m.

For the first time in Israeli history, the country’s ceremonial president has announced that no candidate has been able to form a government.

Reuven Rivlin informed parliament on Thursday that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief challenger, retired military chief Benny Gantz, have completed the task of building a coalition in the time allotted to them.

The formal expiration of the presidential mandate kicks off the final 21-day window before new elections must be called.

Netanyahu, Gantz or any other sitting lawmaker can hypothetically present the backing of a majority of parliament’s 120 members in the coming weeks. But given the prolonged stalemate and unsuccessful mediation efforts it increasingly appears the country is headed toward an unprecedented third election in less than a year.