Is­raeli leader vows to carry on de­spite bribe scan­dal

Edmonton Journal - - WORLD - Aron Heller

JERUSALEM •Is­raeliPrime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu vowed to carry on Wed­nes­day after po­lice rec­om­mended in­dict­ing him on cor­rup­tion charges, an­grily dis­miss­ing the al­le­ga­tions and the crit­ics call­ing on him to step down.

With his coali­tion part­ners du­ti­fully lin­ing up be­hind him, the long­time leader read­ied him­self for a pro­longed bat­tle over his po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy as the at­tor­ney gen­eral con­sid­ers whether to ul­ti­mately press charges.

The po­lice an­nounce­ment that Ne­tanyahu’s ac­cep­tance of nearly $300,000 in gifts from two bil­lion­aires amounted to bribery sent shock waves through the Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and de­liv­ered a hu­mil­i­at­ing blow to Ne­tanyahu after years of al­le­ga­tions and in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

But it did not ap­pear to im­me­di­ately threaten his rule as re­ac­tion largely fell along par­ti­san lines. Nearly all of Ne­tanyahu’s cabi­net min­is­ters is­sued state­ments of sup­port and his coali­tion part­ners all sig­nalled they would stick by him, for now.

“Let me re­as­sure you: the coali­tion is sta­ble. No one, not I and no one else, plans to go to elec­tions. We will con­tinue to work to­gether with you for the peo­ple of Is­rael un­til the end of our term,” he said to a gath­er­ing of lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Tel Aviv. “After I read the rec­om­men­da­tions re­port, I can say it is bi­ased, ex­treme, full of holes like Swiss cheese and doesn’t hold wa­ter.”

In an im­pas­sioned de­fence, Ne­tanyahu took aim at po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors say­ing their fig­ures were vastly in­flated and tried “to cre­ate a false im­pres­sion of ex­changes that never ex­isted.”

Though he is not legally com­pelled to re­sign, sev­eral op­po­si­tion fig­ures called on Ne­tanyahu to do so to avoid cor­rupt­ing the of­fice fur­ther.

Un­der sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances a decade ago Ne­tanyahu, then the op­po­si­tion leader, urged then-Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert to re­sign after po­lice rec­om­mended he be in­dicted, say­ing a leader “sunk up to his neck in in­ter­ro­ga­tions” could not gov­ern prop­erly.

In con­trast to Olmert, who even­tu­ally stepped down and was con­victed and im­pris­oned, Ne­tanyahu is still rel­a­tively pop­u­lar with the pub­lic and en­joys broad po­lit­i­cal sup­port in his Likud party and among coali­tion part­ners — nearly all of whom stand to lose power if elec­tions were held to­day.

The only crack in the wallto-wall sup­port came from Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett, head of the na­tion­al­is­tic Jewish Home party, who said Ne­tanyahu could keep serv­ing but was “not liv­ing up to the stan­dard” ex­pected of his of­fice.

Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu

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