Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Justice Ministry on Thursday that he would give up his ministerial portfolios by Jan. 1, in light of corruption charges against him.
In addition to the post of Prime Minister, which he would retain, Netanyahu currently acts as Minister for welfare, Diaspora Affairs, Agriculture and Health.
The Justice Ministry said in a statement that Netanyahu would also appoint his replacements by Jan. 1.
Netanyahu’s move comes in response to a petition filed by the good-governance group Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel to the Supreme Court to have him removed from office.
The country will hold an unprecedented third election within a year on March 2, after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself Thursday amid a political stalemate that had grasped Israel since September elections.
Under Israeli law, Netanyahu does not have to step down as Prime Minister if indicted and vowed not to give up the position.
However, legal precedent stipulates that ministers cannot hold on to their position when they are on trial.
In November, Israel’s Attorney-General announced that Netanyahu would be charged with fraud, breach of trust and bribery in three separate cases, making him Israel’s first sitting premier to face indictment.
Netanyahu recently spoke of a “witch hunt” and “coup attempt” against him, and has repeatedly hurled attacks at Israel’s Justice Ministry.(dpa/NAN)