Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset, Israel's parliament - REUTERS
JERUSALEM, AFP: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he would not resign if prosecutors moved to indict him on corruption charges, as authorities probe several cases involving him ahead of April polls.
Netanyahu said he would not step down in the event of being summoned for a hearing by the prosecutor general before the elections, a necessary step ahead of being formally charged.
The veteran premier was addressing a press conference streamed online from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where he is on an official visit.
The prime minister will not be required to resign if charged in any of the three cases of alleged corruption, but he would likely face intense political pressure to do so.
“I have no intention to resign, firstly because there will be nothing (to come from the probes), secondly because the law does not oblige me to do so,” Netanyahu said in Rio, referring to the hearing process.
“That would be a serious breach of Israeli democracy,” he added.
The attorney general’s decision on any indictments is expected in the coming months and analysts say Netanyahu’s decision to call early elections was a deft manoeuvre to fight any charges with a fresh mandate.
The premier denies all charges against him and polls show he is likely to win the April 9 polls.
In the most recent move by investigators, police recommended Netanyahu be indicted over regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq, in exchange for positive coverage from a related media company.
According to Israel media reports, there is sufficient evidence to charge him with corruption in the Bezeq case.
In February, investigators recommended Netanyahu be indicted in two other cases.
In one, allegations against Netanyahu include seeking a secret deal with the publisher of Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival.
Another probe involves suspicions the premier and his family received luxury gifts from wealthy individuals in exchange for financial or personal favours.