Israeli PM Netanyahu rejects corruption allegations in live address

Israeli PM Netanyahu rejects corruption allegations in live address
File Image of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu.

Update: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used a prime-time address to again dismiss a series of corruption allegations against him.

In what was billed as a "dramatic announcement", Mr Netanyahu said it would be "unjust" for him to be indicted ahead of early elections called for April 9 without a chance to respond to the claims against him.

He said authorities had denied his requests to confront state witnesses in person, and he offered to do so on live television. "What are they afraid of? What do they have to hide?" he said.

Police have recommended indicting Mr Netanyahu on an array of charges stemming from three corruption investigations, but it falls to his hand-picked attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, to decide whether to bring charges.

The premier has denied any wrongdoing and branded the investigations a "witch hunt" orchestrated by his political opponents and a hostile media.

He has said he will not give up his re-election campaign or resign from office if indicted.

The Israeli media scrambled to cover his address on Monday, running it live on all major stations, only to have commentators widely dismiss the brief address as a ploy by the prime minister to again attack the investigation.

In a terse statement, the Justice Ministry defended its probes, saying they had been handled professionally.

Last month, police recommended indicting Mr Netanyahu on bribery charges, saying they believed he had used his connections with the controlling shareholder of Israel's telecom giant Bezeq to promote regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of pounds in exchange for positive press coverage on Bezeq's popular news site Walla.

Police said they believed there was sufficient evidence to charge him and his wife Sara with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.

Police have also recommended corruption charges in two other cases. One involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends, and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favourable coverage.

During the investigations, three former senior aides to Mr Netanyahu have turned state witnesses against him.

He said on Monday he was "certain of my innocence".

"I request to confront all the witnesses who stated things that don't align with my position, the truth," he said.

Earlier: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will deliver a "dramatic announcement" set to coincide with the evening news broadcast.

Mr Netanyahu said in a statement on Twitter that he would broadcast a "special announcement to the press".

The embattled prime minister's mysterious statement left even veteran political reporters baffled as to its nature.

There was speculation it was related to investigations into alleged corruption by Mr Netanyahu.

Police have recommended that Mr Netanyahu be indicted in a series of corruption probes.

Mr Netanyahu called early elections last month and is seeking re-election under the shadow of a possible indictment.

He has denied any wrongdoing and has said he would not give up his re-election campaign or resign his office if charged.

- Press Association

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