Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to be indicted in an investigation he labeled as a witch hunt perpetrated by the media and leftist politicians.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit filed charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against the long-serving leader, creating more political turmoil for Israel, which this year has conducted two elections – in May and September -- that failed to create a clear cut winner. Netanyahu is currently leading an interim government.

Mandelblit said the charges stem from three separate corruption investigations.

If convicted of the most serious charge, bribery, Netanyahu could face up to 10 years in prison. Netanyahu is accused of granting regulatory favors to Israel’s largest telecommunications company, Bezeq, in exchange for favorable media coverage on a news website controlled by the company's former chairman.

Netanyahu also allegedly received gifts of cigars, jewelry and champagne valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars from two billionaire businessmen in return for certain favors, including pressuring U.S. officials to grant one of them a visa.

However, Netanyahu may not face imminent prosecution since the legal case could drag on for months or even years. Moreover, he does not have to relinquish his post as prime minister – unless he eventually is convicted.

Netanyahu could ask the Knesset for immunity, but such a request would be in the hands of a special committee that has yet to be established.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Mandelblit will ask the Knesset to waive Netanyahu's immunity, a process which could take one month.

As for the ongoing political deadlock, Knesset members have 21 days to become prime minister if they can obtain the 61 signatures required to achieve a majority in the parliament. Otherwise Israel will be forced to hold a third election this year.

Should Netanyahu win that poll, doubts will be raised about whether an indicted lawmaker can form a new government.

Netanyahu has enjoyed strong support from his Likud political base thus far, but conviction could turn off many voters.

“We’ve seen consistently that a big majority of the public, about two-thirds, do not think a prime minister can serve and at the same time try to clear his name in court,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.

One of his rivals in Likud, Gideon Saar, said he wants to challenge Netanyahu for the prime minister post.

“We need to set a Likud leadership primary,” Saar said Thursday. “I’ll be able to form a government and I think I will be able to unify the nation.”