Netanyahu, police urge criminal charges

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The Independent Online

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew both barbs and praise Wednesday for his televised denial of corruption charges, but one legal commentator said only the "dry facts" will determine if the combative ex-leader ends up in jail.

Netanyahu angrily denied any wrongdoing in Tuesday night's broadcast, aired hours after police urged the attorney general to indict him and his wife on corruption charges.

Police said Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, accepted favors from a contractor, kept 700 presents meant to be state property - including a gold letter opener from U.S. Vice President Al Gore - and tried to influence others to lie to police. If tried and convicted of the most serious charge, obstruction of justice, Netanyahu could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

During Tuesday night's 50-minute interview, Netanyahu, famed during his tenure as prime minister for his media savvy, used props and dramatic pauses to emphasize his innocence and to accuse police of a witch hunt. He mentioned his son and recently deceased mother and scoffed: "The whole thing is ridiculous."

Police Commissioner Yehuda Wilk said Wednesday he had warned investigators that Netanyahu and his supporters would lash out at the police when they announced their recommendation.

"I said to the police officers, 'Wear bulletproof vests,' because we assessed that this is what would happen," Wilk told reporters at a press conference in Jerusalem. "There are those who, instead of dealing with the evidence, think the correct way is to slander the police."

Israeli newspapers on Wednesday were full of commentary marveling at what was described by many as Netanyahu's all-out fight for political survival.