PM praises Likud support amid graft probes, vows to stay in office
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PM praises Likud support amid graft probes, vows to stay in office

After 3-hour grilling, Netanyahu says he'll be leading Israel 'for many years'; denounces 'pressure campaign' against him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses MKs during the annual Question Time in the Knesset on January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses MKs during the annual Question Time in the Knesset on January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Emerging from three hours of police questioning Friday in two cases of suspected corruption, Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message of thanks to Likud members at a party retreat in Eilat, dismissing the allegations against him and vowing that he would continue as prime minister “for many years.”

“This support is especially important in light of the campaign of incessant pressure from certain elements seeking to influence law enforcement agencies and the attorney general to file an indictment against me,” he wrote in a letter read aloud at the get-together.

“The response to those persons is clear,” Netanyahu said. “In a democracy, an elected government is replaced at the polls, and not through a calibrated pressure campaign on law enforcement agencies and the attorney general. We can be proud of the fact that the Likud movement has over the years backed its leaders and stood behind them, as opposed to what happens in other parties.”

Referring to his party’s supporters, Netanyahu said that “they, like the Israeli public, do not buy into this attack.”

“I feel the depth of support for me [within] the Likud party, wherever I go and on the social networks,” he said. “Thanks to their support — and with God’s help — I intend to continue to lead the Likud party and the State of Israel for many years to come.”

Police detectives arrive at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on January 27, 2017 to question him for the third time in two corruption investigations. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police detectives arrive at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on January 27, 2017 to question him for the third time in two corruption investigations. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Detectives from the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit arrived at Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office on Friday morning for his third round of questioning. Another session with police is expected to take place “in the middle of next week,” Hebrew-language media reported.

Friday’s session revolved around two cases: Netanyahu and his family’s dealings with billionaire benefactors, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — known as Case 1000; and his negotiations for a suspected quid pro quo deal with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Arnon Mozes, known as Case 2000.

Mozes, who was questioned by police for a sixth time Thursday, held recorded conversations with the prime minister on advancing legislation that would reduce the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily’s circulation in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was implemented.

Channel 10 reported Wednesday that police were likely to recommend indicting Netanyahu over the gifts he received from Milchan, with the case being in the most advanced stage of the multiple investigations into him. The report indicated the investigation will likely be concluded in the coming weeks.

Likud members attend a party retreat in Eilat on January 27, 2017 (Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Likud members attend a party retreat in Eilat on January 27, 2017 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israel Radio reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is leaning toward a charge of breach of trust in the case, but not bribery. There has been no formal confirmation of plans for indictments. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu has been largely defiant in the face of the investigations, of which there are two more. In Case 3000 — the so-called submarine affair — Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of swaying multi-billion shekel deals in favor of German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp, which he represented in Israel. Police are considering investigating Netanyahu as a criminal suspect.

There are no known details of the fourth affair, known as Case 4000.

On Thursday, Netanyahu took to Facebook to also complain about the “pressure inflicted by the media and [some] politicians on the attorney general and law enforcement to file an indictment at any cost against the prime minister.”

“This is an attempt to carry out a coup, in a non-democratic way,” he wrote.

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