Almost half of Israelis want Netanyahu to step down after corruption allegations

Will Netanyahu's corruption scandal affect the Middle East?

Poll: Likud stronger after police recommendations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. "I can say this is a slanted document, extreme, full of holes, like Swiss cheese, and holds no water".

Netanyahu's lawyers said the presents were simply tokens of friendship. Late a year ago, the protest movement was given a boost by Israeli lawmakers, who passed a law aimed at scrapping the procedure of police recommendations to the attorney general.

A public debate has always been under way in Israel on whether Mandelblit, who has avoided interviews, might be reluctant to prosecute a sitting prime minister for the first time in Israeli history, especially one who promoted him through government ranks.

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".

It is now up to Israel's attorney-general to decide whether to file charges.

The opposition Labor Party has called on Netanyahu to resign, saying his coalition allies need to choose between supporting the prime minister and upholding the rule of law.

Mr Netanyahu's ruling coalition, too, shows no signs of weakness.

The head of a centrist Israeli party called on Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and defended his decision to cooperate with police in their corruption investigation of the prime minister.

Police said in a statement that Netanyahu had accepted gifts valued at 750,000 shekels ($214,000) from billionaire film producer Arnon Milchan, and that in exchange, Netanyahu operated on Milchan's behalf on U.S. visa matters and helped Milchan with the Israeli media market.

The alleged bribery scheme is part of the so-called Case 1000 by police, in which Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are said to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, including some NIS 750,000 ($212,000) worth of cigars, champagne, jewelry and clothing from Milchan and some NIS 250,000 ($70,000) worth of gifts from Milchan's business partner James Packer.

"There is a very long process ahead, and we believe it will stop before any indictment", Ben Zur said. Police said they gathered sufficient evidence to start legal proceedings against the premier in two separate probes - Case 1000 and Case 2000.

Testifying to Israeli police in November, Tata confirmed that Milchan's Blue Sky International security advisory firm provided services to the Tata-owned Taj Hotel Group, following the 2009 terrorist attack in Mumbai, according to a statement released by his office at the time. He also allegedly tried to influence coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest newspaper, in exchange for help with slowing the growth of a rival paper.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, after the police recommendations were made public, a spokesman for Packer said: "There is no allegation of wrongdoing on Mr Packer's behalf".

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