Israeli PM in eye of storm amid fraud allegations

Police recommended Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery and breach of trust

JERUSALEM (AA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing calls to resign, shortly after police recommended that he should be indicted for alleged corruption.

After a 14-month investigation into two cases of fraud allegations, police recommended on Tuesday that Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery and breach of trust.

“Netanyahu’s era is over in polling stations or in interrogations,” Avi Gabbay, chairman of the opposition Zionist Union, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Netanyahu harmed the police and legal institutions more than anyone probed ever had before,” he said.

Israeli member of Knesset Tzipi Livni, for her part, called on the prime minister to go on an open vacation.

“If he doesn’t do it by his own, his partners have to do so,” said Livni, a former foreign minister. “Netanyahu has made it clear that he has no intention of resigning and he has no hesitation to drag the country on his way down.”

Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid Party, said the country cannot be run by someone facing serious corruption suspicions.

"Even if the law doesn't require the prime minister to resign, in a civilized nation, a man who faces such serious accusations cannot continue serving as the prime minister," he said in a statement.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in 2009 after being indicted for corruption.

- Political life at stake

The police recommendation has dominated coverage of Israeli dailies on Wednesday, with many newspapers seeing Netanyahu fighting for his political life.

Haaretz daily said in an editorial that police recommendation kicked off the countdown to the end of Netanyahu’s political life.

It said the Israeli premier will seek to buy time, hoping that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will scrap the indictment and leave him in his post.

The Jerusalem Post daily, for its part, said Netanyahu had underestimated the corruption allegations for months.

It, however, expected that Netanyahu’s coalition partner will wait until the attorney-general formally indict the prime minister over the allegations.

In a Facebook post, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, a main pillar of Netanyahu’s coalition, said only the attorney general could make the decision to indict.

Education Minister Naftali Bennet, for his part, said Netanyahu was a man of honest motives who should stay on as premier, but that taking gifts in “large sums over a long period of time” did not meet the standard prime ministers should set.

Despite the calls for him to resign, Netanyahu remained defiant, saying his coalition government was stable.

“I want to reassure you; the coalition is stable,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Neither me nor anyone else has plans for elections. We're going to continue to work together for the good of Israeli citizens until the end of the term," he added.

- Real threat

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, thinks that Netanyahu faces a real threat to his post for the first time in 11 years.

“Netanyahu will not hesitate to move the confrontation to dangerous levels to keep his seat, even if this affected the prestige of the Israeli judiciary,” Abdul Hadi told Anadolu Agency.

“He has always wanted to leave a legacy of his own to the State of Israel, but this case of corruption may force him to leave by the back door,” he opined.

Abdul Hadi believes that Netanyahu may take aggressive moves against the Palestinians in an effort to distract attention away from his corruption allegations.

“Netanyahu will step up settlement building and push for laws that serve the right-wing in Israel in order to guarantee their support,” he said.
“His government might also escalate the situation on the southern borders with Gaza in order to draw the attention of the public opinion to another place,” he said.

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