Netanyahu: Corruption report 'like Swiss cheese'
Prime minister gets strong support from his coalition.
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.”
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.