Israeli Opposition Hails 'End of Netanyahu', PM's Party Suspects 'Coup'

Thursday, 15 Feb, 2018

Police said Netanyahu should be indicted in two different cases levelled against him, however the prime minister has doubled down on his claim that "nothing will come" of the indictment calling the accusations "biased, ugly and against the facts". "No one, not I, not anyone else, has plans to go to an election", Netanyahu told a conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, the day after police made their recommendations public.

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.

The decision to indict is now with Israel's attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit.

Netanyahu was critical of the police in his remarks on Wednesday, as he has been for months.

But Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, said that as long as Mr Netanyahu was not convicted he should stay in office.

In exchange, Netanyahu is accused of exploring the possibility of having a law passed that would have limited the distribution of Moses's main competitor, the Israel Hayom free newspaper, and prevented its publication on weekends.

In a statement, police said that enough evidence had been gathered against Netanyahu for committing "bribery, fraud, and breach of trust", throwing his political future in doubt. "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". In exchange, police say Netanyahu used his power to help Milchan in a number of ways, like helping to extend a USA visa and aiding businesses and deals in which Milchan had a stake.

Ofer Shelah, a lawmaker with the opposition Yesh Atid party, says criticism of his party's leader Yair Lapid - a key witness in the case against Netanyahu - is "an attempt to divert the conversation from what happened".

"That's how criminals talk, not public servants", Lapid responded, saying that as a law abiding citizen he merely gave a short testimony upon the request of police.

Hadad says Netanyahu "didn't receive bribes at all".

There was no immediate reaction from Netanyahu, who has been prime minister for a total of almost 12 years, and police declined to comment when contacted by AFP. "The truth will definitely emerge, and Netanyahu will continue to lead the country". The police said there is "sufficient evidence that suspicions of bribery were committed".

The allegations report that Netanyahu asked the publisher of an Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, for positive coverage in exchange for help in reining in a rival publication.

The development deals an embarrassing blow to the embattled prime minister and is likely to fuel calls for him to resign. According to the police, the number of gifts the prime minister has received since taking office has increased significantly to 1 million shekels ($ 300,000).

The Jerusalem Post says the gifts included champagne and cigars, and were given in exchange for help getting Mr Milchan a United States visa.