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Netanyahu's 'dramatic statement': Investigation against him is 'witch hunt'

By Allen Cone
Netanyahu's 'dramatic statement': Investigation against him is 'witch hunt'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on television Monday from his home in Jerusalem. Photo by Jim Hollander/EPA

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday decried investigations against himself as "a terrible witch hunt" during an national televised address he billed as a "dramatic statement."

Rather than talking about pressing issues involving the Jewish state, the 69-year-old politician described the threat to his career during the 20-minute speech, which began at 8 p.m. Not all of the stations carried the entire address.

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Alleging unfair treatment by his opponents from the left, Netanyahu demanded the rightto publicly confront the men who have turned state's witness against him in three corruption investigations.

"What are they afraid of? I'm not afraid. I have nothing to lose," Netanyahu told Israelis. "I'm willing for it to be livestreamed for the public to hear the full truth. I'm confident in my truth."

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Describing the investigation against him as "biased," Netanyahu said he twice has requested questioning the three state's witnesses but has been rebuffed by police investigators.

The Justice Ministry, in a statement released after Netanyahu's TV appearance, said investigagtors were following an "organized and professional work process that is not, and should not, be conducted in the media."

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Three former close confidants of Netanyahu -- Ari Harow, Shlomo Filber and Nir Hefetz -- have turned against him, alleging fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

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One case involves gifts from wealthy businessmen allegedly in exchange for favors, another accuses him of colluding with a media organization in exchange for favorable coverage and the third involves a major Israeli telecoms company.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has received their reports, will make the final decision whether to indict Netanyahu.

There is the possibility that a pre-indictment hearing will take place before the election on April 9 in which he is seeking re-election.

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Netanyahu questioned why certain individuals had not been called as witnesses in the investigations.

During the speech, Netanyahu also questioned why one of his chief rivals for the premiership, Yair Lapid of the opposition Yesh Atid party, had not been investigated though he met with one of the businessmen named in one of the cases.

In a poll published Thursday in the Jerusalem Post, 51 percent of voters believed Netanyahu should resign if he was indicted pending a hearing before the election. Thirty-four percent said he should not and 15 percent had no opinion or said they didn't know.

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"Bibi is a-f-r-a-i-d," Ehud Barak, the former prime minister who defeated Netanyahu in 1999 and is considering another run in April, wrote on Twitter.

Nahum Barnea, a veteran columnist for Yediot Ahronot, compared Netanyahu's tactics with U.S. President Donald Trump.

"It's like Trump," Barnea said in an allusuion to Trump's claims of a witch hunt against him. "He focuses on the base and what I call the tribe: not only Likud voters but the other right-wing parties. He's trying to put some fear into them, to get them to put their personal loyalty to him over their faith in the legal system."

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