Israeli police advocate indicting Netanyahu over alleged bribery

Zionist Union party Avi Gabbay seen during a faction meeting at the Israeli parliament

Zionist Union party Avi Gabbay seen during a faction meeting at the Israeli parliament

In an impassioned 10-minute rebuttal to police recommendations to indict him on bribery and breach of trust charges, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation on Tuesday night that not only will this government complete its term, but he will again be re-elected in 2019.

Police said that Netanyahu and Yedioth publisher Mozes discussed various ways to promote their mutual interests at a time when Netanyahu was also Communications Minister, among them the legislation to curtails Israel Hayom's circulation, scrapping its weekend edition and negotiating the sale of Yedioth.

"The investigation lasted a year and a half" and now it turns out that "Lapid is a key witness", Netanyahu said at a conference Wednesday.

As the police recommendations to prosecutors are just that, the next development in the case will come from justice officials - particularly Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit - and due to the procedures that the justice system follows, it could be many months before that development comes. "In connection with Milchan, the position police take is that there's sufficient evidence has been established on the suspicions of bribery". "Not in a single day, not in a year, not at all", the lawyer said.

Netanyahu's lawyers said the presents were simply tokens of friendship.

The police announcement that Netanyahu's acceptance of almost $300,000 in gifts from two billionaires amounted to bribery sent shockwaves through the Israeli political system and delivered a humiliating blow to Netanyahu after years of allegations and investigations.

"He is unworthy to continue to be prime minister of Israel".

"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.

The potential charges against Netanyahu include receiving $300,000 in gifts from two billionaires in exchange for tax breaks and political favors.

Netanyahu said that this was merely the latest attempt to remove him from office, and it would fail.

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The second, Case 2000, also alleges "bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the Prime Minister" and by the publisher of the biggest-selling Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon Mozes.

However, Netanyahu, who has invariably dismissed his corruption charges, remained defiant and said, "I am certain, as I have always been certain, and nothing has changed, that the truth will come to light and nothing will come of this".

But members of Mr Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party have been quick to defend him.

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

There was no immediate comment from Packer or Mozes.

A prime minister who is facing such police recommendations or who has been formally charged with offences is not obliged to resign.

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".

Netanyahu has long decried the investigation into him as a "witch hunt" by the media.

Recordings recently emerged of his wife, Sara, screaming at an aide, while separate recordings caught his eldest son, Yair, on a drunken night out at a series of Tel Aviv strip clubs while traveling around in a taxpayer-funded government auto with a government-funded bodyguard.

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