Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defied fresh opposition calls for him to step down after police recommended that he be indicted for corruption charges.
Israeli police said Tuesday that there was ample evidence for Netanyahu to be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases. The final decision to indict the prime minister is with Israel’s attorney general, a process which could take weeks or months.
The indictment recommendation promoted calls among Israeli opposition leaders for Netanyahu to step down, with the head of the Labor Party, Avi Gabbay and Yair Lapid, who chairs the opposition Yesh Atid party, urging the premier’s coalition partners to leave his ranks.
Lapid said, “Someone with such serious accusations against them, many of which he does not even deny, cannot continue to serve as prime minister with responsibility for the security and well-being of Israel’s citizens.”
Gabbay told Israel’s army Radio, “I think it’s clear here that this government needs to go to elections. It can’t be that this government continues as is,” adding, “There’s really a government culture of corruption.”
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said officers investigating Netanyahu had been followed and put under pressure.
However, Netanyahu, who has invariably dismissed his corruption charges, remained defiant and said, “I am certain, as I have always been certain, and nothing has changed, that the truth will come to light and nothing will come of this.”
“After reading the recommendations report, I can say that it is a biased, extreme document full of holes, like Swiss cheese.”
The prime minister also claimed that his coalition is stable, adding, “No one, not I, not anyone else, has plans to go to an election. We will continue to work with you for the good of Israel’s citizens until the end of the term.”
Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a key member of Netanyahu’s coalition, slammed the PM’s behavior and said, “A prime minister is not meant to be perfect or live an over-modest lifestyle, but he needs to be someone people look at and say: ‘This is how one should act.’”
“Taking gifts in large sums over a long period of time is not living up to this standard,” he added, while stressing, however, that the charges against Netanyahu have yet to be proved.
Over the past few months, thousands of Israelis have been holding weekly rallies outside the house of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to call for Netanyahu’s prosecution.