Netanyahu responds to police calling for his indictment


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the police on Wednesday, a day after the police said there was sufficient evidence to indict him on charges of corruption and while the opposition called him to resign.

Demonstrators have been holding regular protests outside Mendelblit's home in Israel, and have accused him of purposely dragging out the investigation on Netanyahu, which he denies.

"Over the years, I have been the subject of at least 15 inquiries and investigations", he said.

The other case, 2000, concerns the publisher of a leading Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, whereby Netanyahu, in secret talks, allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for damaging a competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

While an indictment alone would not legally oblige Netanyahu to resign, he would likely face mounting pressure to do so.

From 2007 to 2016, Netanyahu - along with his wife, Sara, and son, Yair - allegedly accepted around 1 million shekels' (around 212,700 dollars) worth of cigars and jewellery from Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, in a manner that constituted a bribe from Milchan and a breach of trust regarding Packer, according to police.

In return for the goods, Netanyahu allegedly approached USA officials and asked them to extend Milchan's visa to the United States. "All of them started off as breaking news, some of them with shocking police recommendations", said the prime minister.

The police recommendations now go to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will review the material before deciding whether to file charges.

A public debate has always been under way in Israel on whether Mandelblit, who has avoided interviews, might be reluctant to prosecute a sitting prime minister for the first time in Israeli history, especially one who has promoted his career. Neither set of recommendations ripened into charges, with attorneys general citing insufficient evidence to indict.

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An ashen-faced Netanyahu said in a televised address: "I will continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly and loyally as long as you, the citizens of Israel, choose me to lead you".

A decision could take months and Mr Netanyahu claimed his government would be "stable" for the time being.

Hadad said Netanyahu was never involved in promoting Milchan's business interests and that he had actually acted against Milchan's interests on several occasions. He added that "our government will finish its term and I am sure that in the next elections (due in 2019), I will again win your confidence".

A third case is being investigated separately and has involved Netanyahu allies, but the prime minister has not been named as a suspect. Netanyahu can remain in office during the review; he has denied the allegations.

"Because I know the truth, I tell you ... things will end in nothing", Netanyahu said. Mandelblit won't be able to announce his decision during a campaign - for fear of tipping the elections, and once Bibi wins, it will be politically hard for the attorney general to press charges at all (if Netanyahu loses it won't matter anyway).

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, said that as long as Netanyahu was not convicted he should stay in office.

"Secondly, the document inflates the sums in question beyond recognition, citing enormous expenses that have nothing to do with me, all in an attempt to reach a predetermined sum", Netanyahu said.

Tzipi Livni, part of the main opposition Zionist Union alliance that also includes Labour, criticised what she called a campaign to undermine the police.