Netanyahu, Defiant, Calls Bribery Case ‘Full of Holes, Like Swiss Cheese’

As a legal matter, the case now goes to state prosecutors and the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, a onetime Netanyahu aide, who will decide whether to file formal charges. If Mr. Netanyahu is indicted, that would be a first for a sitting prime minister in Israel. Getting to that point, which would require a hearing at which Mr. Netanyahu’s lawyers could argue against indictment, could easily take months.

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Netanyahu, Defiant, Calls Bribery Case ‘Full of Holes, Like Swiss Cheese’
Netanyahu, Defiant, Calls Bribery Case ‘Full of Holes, Like Swiss Cheese’

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As a political matter, however, Mr. Netanyahu’s right-leaning governing coalition holds just 66 of 120 seats in Parliament, so any cracks in solidarity could quickly prove fatal.

But by noon Wednesday, two crucial partners had indicated that they would stay by Mr. Netanyahu’s side for the moment. The finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, whose center-right Kulanu party holds 10 seats, signaled late Tuesday that he would not make any decisions before the attorney general’s decision on whether to indict Mr. Netanyahu.

And on Wednesday, the education minister, Naftali Bennet, who leads the right-wing Jewish Home party, which has eight seats, said he would follow suit, saying that replacing the government “should be done at the voting station.”

But while defending Mr. Netanyahu’s management of the affairs of state, Mr. Bennet allowed that the police recommendations were “harsh” and called into question the prime minister’s ability “to be a leader and role model for the citizens of Israel.”

“A prime minister is not meant to be perfect or live an over-modest lifestyle, but he needs to be someone people look at and say, ‘This is how one should act,’ ” Mr. Bennet said. “Taking gifts in large sums over a long period of time is not living up to this standard.”

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