JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest in Israel after police recommended corruption charges against embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (all times local):
Education Minister Naftali Bennett says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “not living up to the standard” expected of the office, but stopped short of calling for his resignation.
Bennett, a key Netanyahu ally, spoke for the first time since police announced they are recommending the prime minister be indicted for corruption.
Bennett said at a meeting of local governments in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that he believes in Netanyahu’s “sincere motives,” but “taking gifts in large sums over a long period of time is not living up to this standard” expected of the premier.
Nonetheless, Bennett said he will wait for Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision whether or not to indict the prime minister.
He says that “until that decision … I call on all sides to act responsibly, with restraint, and with statesmanship.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dismissing police recommendations to indict him on corruption charges, calling the allegations “biased, extreme, full of holes like Swiss cheese.”
Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday to local government officials in Tel Aviv, a day after police submitted their recommendations that he be charged following the completion of two investigations into bribery and breach of trust.
Netanyahu says his government remains stable despite the police recommending that he be indicted.
Netanyahu says he is as confident as always that “the truth will come to light and nothing will come of this.”
Opposition leaders have called on Netanyahu to step down. But the longtime premier Netanyahu angrily rejects the accusations, which include accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts from two billionaires.
He accused police of being on a witch hunt and vowed to remain in office.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer, Amit Hadad, says police recommendations of corruption charges against the prime minister are based on “false” statements.
Police said in a statement that Netanyahu had accepted gifts valued at 750,000 shekels ($214,000) from billionaire film producer Arnon Milchan, and in exchange Netanyahu had operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters and helped Milchan with the Israeli media market.
Hadad told Israel Radio that the sums allegedly received by Netanyahu according to police were “inflated, incorrect, unfactual, and simply unacceptable.”
Hadad says Netanyahu “didn’t receive bribes at all. Not in a single day, not in a year, not at all.”
He added that the “prime minister never acted in Milchan’s benefit on any issue, except for one, that of the visa.”
Israeli opposition politicians are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign following police recommendations that he be indicted for corruption.
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay says Netanyahu’s coalition party allies need to choose between supporting the prime minister and upholding the rule of law.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party is crucial to Netanyahu’s government, urged on Facebook that the attacks on police cease, saying the legal system should be allowed to operate “without pressure, from neither right nor left.”
Meanwhile, Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-on said Kahlon, the finance minister, and also Education Minister Naftali Bennett — both key coalition partners — should “show Netanyahu the way out.”
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.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allies from the Likud party are rallying to his defense, a day after police recommended the attorney general indict him on corruption charges.
Likud party lawmaker David Amsalem, the coalition whip, dismissed the police recommendations.
He said on Wednesday that police had committed “an illegitimate act here to attempt a coup d’etat in Israel.”
He says “there are things that are forbidden to do in a democratic government and this is one of them.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev said the gifts Netanyahu received from American billionaire Arnon Milchan that were cited in the bribery charge were merely “relations between friends.”
Regev said in an interview with Israel Radio: “You’re allowed to receive presents from friends. To talk about bribery, you’ve got to point to something that was really done, not just words.”
She said there was no need for Netanyahu to step down.
Israeli police have recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in two corruption cases.
The development deals an embarrassing blow to the embattled prime minister and is likely to fuel calls for him to resign.
Following the announcement late on Tuesday, Netanyahu angrily rejected the accusations, which included accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts from two billionaires.
He accused police of being on a witch hunt and vowed to remain in office and even seek re-election.
An ashen-faced Netanyahu said in a televised address: “I will continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly and loyally as long as you, the citizens of Israel, choose me to lead you.”