Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Netanyahu faces the prospect of indictment on corruption charges

Netanyahu faces the prospect of indictment on corruption charges

"Lapid said that he was questioned about this for an hour, but when I was questioned by police they barely brought the point up", Netanyahu said to local authority officials at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.

Police have recommended charging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu three times in his political career, with the most recent recommendation being announced Tuesday.

Offering his second public comments in the wake of the police's recommendation to press charges against him for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two separate cases, Netanyahu slammed the investigation as a conspiracy against him.

However, opposition figures were keen to herald the allegations as the beginning of the end for Netanyahu's tenure, with Labour party leader Avi Gabbay proclaiming "the Netanyahu era is over".

In a nationwide TV address, a stern-looking Netanyahu denied allegations that he accepted lavish gifts, including champagne and expensive cigars, from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan in exchange for doing favors.

"Taking gifts in large sums over a long period of time is not living up to this standard", he added, while stressing Netanyahu was innocent until proven guilty and that he would wait for the attorney general's decision.

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Police said Netanyahu and his family received gifts worth a total of some NIS 750,000 from the billionaire Israeli producer Arnon Milchan during an nearly decade-long period running from 2007 to 2016 and that from 2014 he had received gifts worth some NIS 250,000 from the Australian businessman James Packer, who owns a house next to the Netanyahu's residence in Caesarea. Others accused Lapid of scheming to bring down Netanyahu to serve his own agenda of becoming prime minister.

Police said in a statement that Netanyahu had accepted gifts valued at 750,000 shekels ($214,000) from billionaire film producer Arnon Milchan, and in exchange Netanyahu had operated on Milchan's behalf on USA visa matters and helped Milchan with the Israeli media market.

The Yesh Atid leader told Netanyahu's supporters not to threaten him: "We can't be intimidated".

The role of one of Netanyahu's main political competitors as a key witness, according to Israeli media reports, is being used by the prime minister to bludgeon the investigations as biased.

Former Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a bitter rival of Netanyahu's, called on him to suspend himself and for the coalition to appoint a successor by Wednesday morning.

Some lawmakers in the premier's conservative Likud party have said Netanyahu should not resign even if indicted. The process could take weeks or months.

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"Some claim the prime minister can not manage the country under the stress of investigations, but I do not see this", he said.

Israel is next scheduled to go to the polls in late 2019.

The police conclusions, released on Tuesday evening, concluded month-long investigations.

Mr Bennett made clear that he would remain in government for now and would wait for the attorney general to decide how to move forward with the case.

In exchange for the gifts, police say, Netanyahu tried to advance a tax break that would have benefited Milchan, though he was blocked by the Finance Ministry.

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