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The Latest: Challenger calls on Israeli PM to step down

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on decision to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges (all times local): 9:10 p.m. Benjamin Netanyahu's chief challenger in upcoming elections is calling on the Israeli prime minister to resign to fight corruption allegations.

Appearing on nationwide TV, Benny Gantz said Thursday that being prime minister cannot be a "part-time job" and said Netanyahu should conduct his legal battle as a private citizen. He also called on Netanyahu to stop attacking state institutions, such as police and prosecutors, who have investigated him.

"The state of Israel is worthy of more than this," he said. Gantz, a former military chief, leads a centrist party that is in a close race with Netanyahu's Likud Party. He said his "Blue and White" party would not sit in a coalition with Netanyahu after the election.

8:25 p.m.

Israel's prime minister has rejected the latest corruption allegations against him as a politically motivated "witch hunt" meant to defeat him in April elections.

Benjamin Netanyahu went on nationwide television Thursday night, shortly after the attorney general recommended indicting him in a series of corruption cases.

Netanyahu called the timing of the announcement, six weeks ahead of elections, "outrageous" and accused his leftist opponents of carrying out an "unprecedented witch hunt."

"The pressure of the left worked," he said, saying the attorney general's recommendations threatened the country's democracy.

He called the accusations lies and a "blood libel" and said he would debunk all charges against him.

6:50 p.m.

Israel's attorney general says he has decided to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a series of corruption charges.

Avichai Mandelblit said Thursday he has accepted the police recommendations to file charges against Netanyahu in three different cases, pending a final hearing.

In a Justice Ministry statement, Mandelblit says he plans to charge Netanyahu with bribery for promoting regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to telecom giant Bezeq in return for positive press coverage in Bezeq's popular subsidiary news site Walla.

He will also charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases. The first involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favorable coverage.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing. He called a press conference for Thursday evening.

9:05 a.m.

Israel is awaiting the attorney general's decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a series of corruption allegations.

Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision on Thursday, after more than two years of intense investigations and deliberations.

An indictment would mark the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged.

Police have recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases. Mandelblit is expected to inform Netanyahu's lawyers he intends to press charges pending a final hearing for the suspect.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and calls the allegations a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office. He has vowed to carry on and is deadlocked in the polls ahead of the Apr.9 national elections.

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