Netanyahu Says He Won't Resign if Called to Corruption Hearing Before Elections

Prosecutor's office recommended indicting the prime minister for bribery in two cases this month

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 30, 2018.
Tania Rego/Courtesy of Agencia Brasil/Handout via REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not resign if he is summoned for a pre-indictment hearing with the attorney general regarding alleged corruption before general elections in April, he said Monday at a press conference in Brazil.

Netanyahu asserted that a prime minister does not need to resign as long as a hearing into a potential indictment has not been completed.

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“It’s inconceivable that a hearing against me will be launched before the election and it will end after it,” Netanyahu said  at a press conference in Brazil, where he has been the past few days on a diplomatic visit that includes the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Earlier this month, a team of attorneys working on behalf of the State Prosecutor's Office recommended indicting Netanyahu on bribery charges in two corruption cases, known as Cases 2000 and 4000.

With regard to the announcement by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked that they were launching a new party known as Hayamin Hehadash, Netanyahu said there was concern that it would “Collapse the right-wing block into slivers of parties.” He added that he doesn’t know what Bennett and Shaked will do with the seats they’ll win. “They could easily move the seats from right to left,” he said.

Hayamin Hehadash responded to Netanyahu by saying, “We will not be dragged into the prime minister’s attacks on us. We are restoring the seats that left the Likud from going to leftwing bloc of [former chief of General Staff Benny] Gantz, [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid and Orli Levi, and suggest that the prime minister join us in this mission.”

Earlier Monday a diplomatic source told Haaretz that Israel was in talks with the Brazilian president about sales of drones, large and small. According to the source, Israel isn’t restricting the use of the aircraft to civilian use, like policing. “Brazil has 30 times as many murders as Israel a year,” the source said.

Netanyahu is hoping that Bolsonaro will move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, and could in return give Brazil assistance in the realm of information and procurement for domestic security. Crime in Brazil is a major issue that Bolsonaro promised to resolve; tens of thousands of people were murdered in Brazil in 2017 alone.

Netanyahu has also asked U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw from Syria gradually and that request is being weighed favorably, a senior diplomatic source told the reporters who had accompanied the premier to Brazil. On Tuesday Netanyahu is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and on Sunday he will meet National Security Adviser John Bolton.