Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press on Thursday at his residence in Jerusalem. Photo: AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called corruption allegations made against him a “witch hunt” intended to remove him from power after the attorney general announced plans to indict him.

Speaking on television shortly after the attorney general’s announcement, Netanyahu said he planned to continue serving as 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.

In the 20-minute statement from his official residence, Netanyahu’s voice was filled with emotion as he spoke of his family, which he said had been victimized by the investigations.

Standing in front of a campaign banner reading “Netanyahu Strong Right,” he spoke of his relationships with US President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, which he said were good for the Jewish state.

He claimed that his political opponents “applied unceasing and inhuman pressure on the AG so that he would say that he is considering laying charges against me, subject to a hearing, even though it is clear that there is no substance.”

He added, “The main thing was to influence the elections, even if we know that this house of cards will completely collapse after the elections.”

The attorney general’s announcement comes ahead of April 9 elections in which the prime minister is facing a robust challenge from a centrist political alliance led by Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff.

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

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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