Millennium Post

Netanyahu's woes

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had never imagined that accusations against him would snowball as it has. He has now complained of "unfair treatment" at the hands of his opponents and demanded the right to confront the men who have turned state's witness against him in separate corruption investigations. Addressing the nation in what was billed ahead of time as a "dramatic announcement", Netanyahu said that the face-to-face meetings should happen on live television so that the Israeli public could see and hear him challenge all the accusations against him. Netanyahu said that he had requested the opportunity to question the three state's witnesses but had been rebuffed by investigators. Netanyahu has already been investigated by the police in three separate cases. During the police investigations, three former confidants of Netanyahu, Ari Harow, Shlomo Filber and Nir Hefetz, turned against him. All three investigations have been handed over to the attorney general, who will make the final decision over whether to indict Netanyahu. The police has said there is sufficient evidence to charge the Prime Minister with fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Netanyahu has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing, but the investigations have still cast a shadow over the last two years of his premiership, as well as being a central issue in the unfolding general election campaign. That election will take place on April 9, and there has been speculation in recent weeks that the attorney general and his team are progressing with their deliberations at such a pace that Netanyahu will be asked to a pre-indictment hearing before election day. Such a hearing would represent the Prime Minister's last chance to dissuade the attorney general from bringing charges. In his address on Israeli television, the Prime Minister denied he was making an attack on the rule of law, but questioned why certain individuals had not been called as witnesses in the investigations and mocked the idea that he had received favourable media coverage in exchange for commercial favours, as two of the cases claim. He also questioned why one of his chief rivals for the premiership, Yair Lapid of the opposition Yesh Atid party, had not been investigated. Lapid also met with one of the businessmen named in one of the cases, Netanyahu said, and had even deleted his accounts of those meetings. Lapid has acknowledged such meetings took place but maintains there was nothing untoward about them. In a statement released after Netanyahu's TV appearance, the Justice Ministry defended the work of the attorney general and the judiciary, saying they were following an "organized and professional work process that is not, and should not, be conducted in the media". Understandable that Netanyahu's apprehensions are increasing by the day.

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