Netanyahu cleared of corruption 'due to lack of evidence' dropped

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The Independent Online

The attorney general of Israel cleared the former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of corruption charges yesterday, opening the way for a political comeback that could challenge Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

The attorney general of Israel cleared the former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of corruption charges yesterday, opening the way for a political comeback that could challenge Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Elyakim Rubinstein said in a 22-page statement, issued after months of deliberation, that he felt "discomfort" about the case but doubted there was enough evidence for the charges to stand up in court. He said Mr Netanyahu's wife, Sara, would not face trial for allegedly trying to receive bribes.

The decision will give little comfort to Palestinian leaders with whom Mr Barak is trying to conclude an agreement to end 52 years' conflict. The peace process was severely strained during Mr Netanyahu's term as leader from 1996 to 1999.

Police had recommended that Mr Netanyahu, 50, be charged for accepting free services from a private contractor and keeping official gifts when he left office. The state prosecutor, Edna Arbel, had agreed.

Critics were likely to draw attention to what Mr Rubinstein said was his "discomfort - and that is an understatement" about the case. He said it was one of the hardest cases his office has faced in recent years.

It was the second time the attorney general had rejected corruption allegations against Mr Netanyahu due to a lack of evidence but also the second time the colourful and outspoken leader had emerged not entirely unscathed. "There is an ugly situation here," said the cabinet minister Yossi Beilin. Mr Barak said the rule of law had been served by the decision.

Mr Netanyahu has not said what his plans are. He is due back from a US business trip today. ( Reuters)

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