Ne­tanyahu: Cor­rup­tion re­port 'like Swiss cheese'

Prime min­is­ter gets strong sup­port from his coali­tion.

Dayton Daily News - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Aron Heller

Is­raeli Prime JERUSALEM —

Min­is­ter Be n ja m in Ne­tanyahu vowed to carry on Wed­nes­day af­ter po­lice rec­om­mended in­dict­ing him on cor­rup­tion charges, an­grily dis­miss­ing the al­le­ga­tions and the crit­ics call­ing for 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 in­ves­tiga- tions. But it did not ap­pear to im­me­di­ately threaten his lengthy rule as re­ac­tion largely fell along par­ti­san lines. Nearly all of Ne­tanya- hu’s Cab­i­net min­is­ters is­sued state­ments of sup­port and his coali­tion part­ners all sig­naled 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,” Ne­tanyahu 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 de­fense, 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 cir­cum- stances 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 im­pris- oned, Ne­tanyahu is still rela- tively pop­u­lar with the pub- lic and en­joys broad po­lit­i­cal sup­port in his Likud party and among coali­tion part­ners — nearly all of whom stand to lose power if elec- tions were held to­day.

Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Gi­lad Er­dan, who over­sees the po­lice, said the prime min­is­ter “de­serves the as­sump­tion of inno- cence,” while Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion whip, David Amsa- lem, ac­cused the po­lice of com­mit­ting “an il­le­git­i­mate act here to at­tempt a coup d’etat in Is­rael.”

More im­por­tantly, the coali­tion par­ties that keep Ne­tanyahu afloat said they would await the rul­ing of At­tor­ney Gen­eral Avi­hai Man­del­blit, who could take months to de­cide whether to file charges.

Po­lice reco m mended in­dict­ing Ne­tanyahu over ac­cept­ing gifts from Hol­ly­wood mogul Arnon Milchan and Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire James Packer, and over sus- pi­cions that he of­fered to give pref­er­en­tial treat­ment to a news­pa­per pub­lisher in ex­change for fa­vor­able cov­er­age.

Po­lice say that in that in re­turn for lav­ish gifts that in­cluded jew­elry, ex­pen­sive cigars and Cham­pagne, Ne­tanyahu had op­er­ated on Milchan’s be­half on U.S. visa mat­ters, tried to leg­is­late a tax break for him and sought to pro­mote his in­ter­ests in the Is­raeli me­dia mar­ket.

One of the big­gest sur­prises to emerge was that Yair Lapid, leader of the cen- trist op­po­si­tion Yesh Atid party, had given tes­ti­mony about Ne­tanyahu’s al­leged ef­forts to help Milchan that he wit­nessed dur­ing his term as fi­nance min­is­ter.

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

AP 2015

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said he won’t re­sign af­ter po­lice rec­om­mended cor­rup­tion charges. “Af­ter I read the rec­om­men­da­tions re­port, I can say it is bi­ased, ex­treme, full of holes like Swiss cheese and doesn’t hold wa­ter,” he said Wed­nes­day.

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