Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Israel police recommend corruption charges for Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel police recommend corruption charges for Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hit back after the police said there was enough evidence to indict him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases.

Police said Tuesday they found evidence Netanyahu traded his influence for favors.

"Over the years, I have been the subject of at least 15 inquiries and investigations", he said. "All of those attempts resulted in nothing, and this time again they will come to nothing", he said.

The police statement also recommends that Mozes should face charges. "He understands that even among his avowed supporters there will be few who buy the version he tried to peddle last night, according to which the police, headed by chief Roni Alsheikh, are conspiring to unseat him".

Addressing the charges at hand, the prime minister said the facts of each case illustrated the opposite of the allegations against him because he acted against the interests of the individuals - Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Yedioth Aharonoth publisher Noni Moses - that he is accused of colluding with.

It is now up to Israel's attorney general to decide whether to file charges, a process that could take months.

"Even if the letter of the law doesn't obligate the prime minister to resign, in a proper country a person accused of such serious allegations... can not continue to serve as prime minister", Lapid told reporters. "We will not let you lead the country to a place where honest people are afraid to tell the truth", Lapid said in a special statement to the media.

"The prosecution can definitely disagree and they do at times", he said, adding that the severity of the allegations could affect the chances of indictment. "Even if the law does not require the Prime Minister to resign, someone who has such serious accusations against them, many of which he does not deny, can not continue to serve as Prime Minister with responsibility for the security and well-being of Israel's citizens", Lapid said. A decision could take months to reach.

"The relationship between the prime minister to Mr Milchan was a system of bribery relations that amounted to a criminal offence and not innocent relations between friends", police stated. "No one, not I, not anyone else, has plans to go to an election", Netanyahu told local government officials in Tel Aviv.

Even former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party was part of Netanyahu's previous governing coalition, insisted the prime minister must step down.

Despite speculation that the Prime Minister would call early elections, seeking public mandate against him - which could influence the AG's decision to prosecute - Netanyahu said he was "certain" the next election will be held on schedule.

Netanyahu has been questioned in the probes multiple times, which have also ensnared his closest confidants and made for lurid headlines detailing alleged gifts of pink champagne and cigars from billionaires Milchan and Packer.

The police recommendations will now be sent to the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who will decided whether to proceed with prosecution.

Avi Gabbay, leader of the opposition Labour party, said "the Netanyahu era is over".

Both claims against Mr Netanyahu, which the leader denies, represent one of the biggest challenges to his long dominance of Israeli politics.

On Tuesday, Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, a bloc of Palestinian political parties in the Israeli parliament, said that Netanyahu was "corrupt and dangerous".

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