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Israel’s Netanyahu lashes out at police against graft allegations

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JERUSALEM, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) — 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.

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.

“After reading the recommendations report, I can say it is a biased, extreme document that is as full of holes as Swiss cheese and that does not hold water,” Netanyahu told a conference of local municipalities in Tel Aviv.

He opened his remarks by addressing the people of Israel: “I want to reassure you, the coalition is stable. We will not go to elections. We will continue to work for the good of Israel’s citizens until the end of the term.”

Referring to the police’s conclusions that he accepted bribe from Israeli businessman and Hollywood Tycoon, Arnon Milchan, Netanyahu charged that the conclusions “ignore and cover up a close 2-year friendship between Arnon Milchan and myself and between our families.”

According to Netanyahu, this relation “included the mutual exchange of gifts dating back to the time I was a private citizen and long before assuming 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.

According to the police, Netanyahu and his family received goods, including jewelry, cigars, and Champaign, worth about one million shekels (282,800 U.S. dollars) from Milchan and the Australian businessman James Packer.

The bribe in this affair, dubbed by the police “case 1000,” was accepted between 2007 and 2016.

In return for the goods, Netanyahu allegedly approached U.S. officials and asked them to extend Milchan’s visa to the United States.

He also acted to promote a law that gives tax exemption for returning Israeli residents who were living abroad for over 10 years, known as the “Milchan Bill,” and helped Milchan to promote his investment in the Israeli media.

In another case, dubbed “case 2000,” Netanyahu allegedly received bribes from Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth, one of Israel’s largest newspapers.

The police said Netanyahu and Mozes held talks over an “exchange deal,” in which Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in Yediot Aharonot in return for promoting a law and other measures that would limit the distribution of Israel Hayom, Yedioth’s main rival.

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

Most of Netanyahu’s coalition members stood by him, saying he should resign only if he was found guilty in the court of law while opposition members urged him to resign immediately.

“When the police say the prime minister has taken bribes, it is impossible to think what other red lines can be crossed before he has to step down from power,” Dov Khenin, a lawmaker with the Jewish-Arab Joint List party, said in a statement.

Netanyahu has been serving as the prime minister of Israel since 2009 and previously held the position from 1996 to 1999. His career was stained by several alleged corruption affairs involving him and his wife, Sara, and some of his closest associates, including his personal lawyer and cousin, and another relative and close confidant. The two are suspects in a major graft investigation involving procurement of submarines from the German corporation, ThyssenKrupp.

In November 2017, Israel’s attorney general said Sara Netanyahu will be summoned for a hearing in January on suspicion of using state funds for personal dining services. The hearing has yet to be made.

In the case, widely known in Israel as “the meals-ordering affair,” Sara Netanyahu and Ezra Saidoff, deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, allegedly created a false impression between 2010 and 2013 that no cook was employed in the office prime minister’s residence, while in fact there were several cooks, according to a formal statement released by the ministry of justice in November.

The false impression was aimed to draw state funds to finance gourmet meals prepared by chefs. “In this way, hundreds of meals from restaurants and chefs worth 359,000 shekels (about 101,000 U.S. dollars) were received from the state fraudulently,” the statement read.

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  • Published: 3 days ago on February 14, 2018
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  • Last Modified: February 14, 2018 @ 11:53 pm
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