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1ST LEAD Netanyahu slams graft allegations as opposition calls for resignation By Eliyahu Kamisher, dpa

Israel
14.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Tel Aviv (dpa) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at recommendations by police to charge him for bribery and breach of trust as the opposition called for his resignation and supporters rallied around him.

Netanyahu described allegations that he accepted bribes from billionaires and a newspaper mogul as "biased and extreme," and said they "don‘t hold water." 

The police announcement on Tuesday led to increased calls for the embattled premier to step down.

"Netanyahu is not worthy and must resign from office," Avi Gabbay, who heads the centre-left Labour Party, told the Ynet news site Wednesday.

But the conservative leader, who has been prime minister for nine years and earlier from 1996-99, maintains a strong base of support.

"As I said to you yesterday I am sure that the truth will come to light. Nothing will come out of this," he said at a conference of local municipality leaders in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Israeli police Tuesday issued the findings of an investigation that lasted more than a year which alleged that Netanyahu and his family accepted around 1 million shekels‘ (280,000 dollars‘) worth of cigars, champagne and jewellery from 2007 to 2016 from two billionaires.

In a separate case, police allege that Netanyahu sought favourable media coverage from newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes in exchange for weakening competing newspaper Israel Hayom.

The recommendations did not come as as surprise as Israeli media has been reporting every twist and turn of the investigation.

In recent months Netanyahu has increasingly attacked the police and media for orchestrating a "witch hunt" against him in order to overthrow the most conservative government in Israel‘s history.

Netanyahu‘s governing coalition is expected to remain stable after two key members, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, said they will wait for the attorney general‘s final decision on whether to press charges, which could take months.

Among police suspicions are that Netanyahu worked with Arnon Milchan, a well-known Israeli-born Hollywood producer, to arrange a US visa, lessen the billionaire‘s tax burden, assist with business ventures, and intervene in the media market on Milchan‘s behlaf.

During this time Milchan provided the Netanyahu family with around 212,000 dollars worth of gifts, police said.

Beginning in 2014 Milchan allegedly agreed to divide the cost of Netanyahu‘s gifts with Australian tycoon James Packer.

"The relationship between the prime minister to Mr Milchan was a system of bribery relations that amounted to a criminal offence and not innocent relations between friends," police stated.

In a response broadcast live Tuesday night Netanyahu said he acted "for the good of the country. Not for cigars, not for journalistic coverage, not for anything - just good." 

Police said that an evidentiary basis had been formed against Milchan and Mozes for giving bribes. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu has been questioned in the probes multiple times, which have also ensnared his closest confidantes and made for sensational headlines detailing alleged gifts of pink champagne and cigars from Milchan and Packer.

The role of one of Netanyahu‘s main political competitors as a key witness, according to Israeli media reports, is being used by the prime minister to bludgeon the investigations as biased.

Yair Lapid, a former finance minister who now heads the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, said he testified to police that he blocked an attempt to expand a 10-year tax exemption that would have benefited Milchan.

In recent months, tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets calling for Netanyahu‘s resignation.

In 2008, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert resigned due to corruption allegations and political infighting.

 

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"Israel" (Hebrew: מדינת ישראל "Medinat Yisra-el"; Arabic دولَة إِسرائيل "Dawlat Isrā"īl") is a small yet diverse Middle Eastern country with a long coastline on the eastern
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|arname=ديمونة|meaning=|founded=1955|type=city|typefrom=|stdHeb=|altOffSp=|altUnoSp=|district=south|population=33,600|popyear=2007|area_dunam=29877|pushpin_map=Israel|latd=31 |latm=4|longd=35 |longm=2|mayor=Meir Cohen}}Dimona is a centre for
|arname=صفد|meaning=Lookout (from the Hebrew root "tzafa")|founded=|type=city|typefrom=|stdHeb=Tzfat|altOffSp=Tsfat, Tzefat, Zfat, |district=north|population=28,500|popyear=2007|mayor=Ilan Shohat|pushpin_map=Israel north
|arname=ديمونة|meaning=|founded=1955|type=city|typefrom=|stdHeb=|altOffSp=|altUnoSp=|district=south|population=33,600|popyear=2007|area_dunam=29877|pushpin_map=Israel|latd=31 |latm=4|longd=35 |longm=2|mayor=Meir Cohen}}Dimona is a centre for
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