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Allies strongly defend Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid corruption claims

Allies strongly defend Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid corruption claims

Mumbai, Feb. 15 (IANS): Hours after his name figured in the Israeli Police recommendations seeking to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption, Indian businessman Ratan N. Tata on Thursday termed the reports factually incorrect and apparently motivated.

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".

One case, known as Case 1000, alleges the "committing of crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu".

Just as President Donald Trump overcame the media and left-wing establishment to win the U.S. election despite his bluster and personal baggage, so too is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defying the odds in Israel.

Netanyahu said on Thursday about his trip: "I am going to Germany to the Munich Conference, the most important security conference in the world, where I was invited to present Israel's position to the heads of state and defense ministers gathered there". "I can say this is a slanted document, extreme, full of holes, like Swiss cheese, and holds no water".

He accused police of being on a witch hunt and vowed to remain in office.

The development deals an embarrassing blow to the embattled prime minister and is likely to fuel calls for him to resign.

The decision on whether to press charges now rests with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.

Eli Hazan, director of communications and worldwide relations for Israel's ruling Likud Party, said in an interview on Wednesday that the charges against Netanyahu are "absurd". The 68-year-old right-wing premier has been questioned seven times by police over the allegations and has called the investigation an attempt by political opponents to force him from office.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "not living up to the standard" expected of the office, but stopped short of calling for his resignation.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said any prime minister who has been charged should not be obliged to resign and Mr Netanyahu has said he would continue in his role.

Avraham Diskin, a political science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said none of Netanyahu's coalition partners had any incentive to rock the boat.

In contrast to Mr Olmert, who eventually stepped down and was convicted and imprisoned, Mr Netanyahu is still relatively popular with the public and enjoys broad political support in his Likud party and among coalition partners - almost all of whom stand to lose power if elections were held today.

Among the witnesses in the case against Netanyahu is his arch-rival Lapid, and that poll showed that 35 percent believed him when he said that Netanyahu had been involved in corrupt practices; 30 percent believed Netanyahu's denial of Lapid's charges; and 35 percent said they weren't sure.