Published: Thu, February 15, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister vows to stay on despite bribery and fraud allegations

Israeli Prime Minister vows to stay on despite bribery and fraud allegations

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) slammed the opposition's call for early elections, saying that they are acting with zero restraint and "have forgotten the Prime Minister's presumption of innocence".

The police recommendations now go to Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, who will review the material before deciding whether to file charges. "After nine years of Netanyahu, the public deserves a new leadership and a clean, honest prime minister", it concluded.

Netanyahu draws political strength in part from his close ties with US President Donald Trump, who in December reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move hailed by Israelis although Palestinians - who claim East Jerusalem for the capital of a future state - and leaders across the Middle East were dismayed.

"Over the years, I have been the subject of at least 15 enquiries and investigations", he said, "Some have ended with thunderous police recommendations like those of tonight".

"I can reassure you that the coalition is stable", Netanyahu said at an event in Tel Aviv, again making clear he had no intention of resigning.

"We will continue to work with you for the good of Israel's citizens until the end of the term", he said.

"A police recommendation can help convince the prosecutors, simply due to the fact that the recommendation is based on the evidence in the case, and that's what the prosecutors will look at", he said. "Should such behavior come to be accepted as the norm for public servants, moral decay will spread through our civil service and the public's trust in the government will plummet".

"The Likud movement will continue to have faith in the prime minister and to help him lead the country", he added.

Milchan, the producer of films including Fight Club, Gone Girl and The Revenant, should face bribery charges, police said.

Among other things, Netanyahu is accused of trying to help Milchin by encouraging the passage of a law that allows new immigrants and returning residents to bring assets with them from overseas and avoid reporting on them to Israeli tax authorities for 10 years. The finance ministry however refused to agree to a law that would have allowed it.

Netanyahu said he was certain that the truth would be revealed. The gifts from Milchan reportedly included expensive cigars and champagne.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu pounced on this as an indication that the investigation was politically motivated and said Lapid looked to "topple me at any cost".

What has the reaction been?

However, Mr. Prime Minister as remain defiant as ever despite the recommendations made.

"It is the duty of every decent public figure to strengthen the police and the law and to act to end the path of the government headed by Netanyahu", Gabbay wrote on Twitter.

Ilan Gilon, of the left-wing Meretz party, said the allegations cast a "heavy shadow" over the prime minister.

Other leading opposition figures and even former Netanyahu allies called on him to resign as well.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in recent months calling for Netanyahu's resignation.

If Netanyahu were to be indicted it would send shockwaves through Israel's Parliament, and deal a huge blow to the Prime Minister who has maintained power in Israeli politics for over 20 years.

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