Netanyahu rejects corruption allegations in live address to Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivering a statement live on I24 TV channel at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Jan. 7. (AFP screengrab)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Netanyahu rejects corruption allegations in live address to Israel

  • Netanyahu demands to confront the state’s witnesses against him
  • Israeli PM insists he is the victim of a political witchhunt

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, contesting an April election under the shadow of possible corruption charges, demanded on Monday to confront the state’s witnesses against him.
Announcing on Twitter, three hours beforehand, that he would make a “special announcement” on Israeli TV, Netanyahu — now in his fourth term — touched off a wave of social media speculation that he might resign or even launch legal action of his own to try to stay any indictment.
Instead, he kicked off Israel’s main TV evening news programs with an anticlimactic speech in which he again professed his innocence in a series of corruption cases. He contended he was a victim of a political witchhunt and said he was being denied the chance to challenge his accusers face-to-face.
“I demand a confrontation with the state’s witnesses now. What are they afraid of? What do they have to hide? I am not afraid and I have nothing to hide...As far as I am concerned it can be broadcast live, so the public can see and hear it.”
In response, Israel’s Justice Ministry said the investigations against Netanyahu — who is now in his fourth term — have been carried out professionally and thoroughly.
Netanyahu’s calling of the snap election, ahead of a national ballot due by November, was widely seen as a direct appeal to voters for a fresh political mandate that could help him weather a potential indictment.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said investigators had twice turned down his requests to confront the witnesses. At least three ex-Netanyahu confidants have agreed to provide evidence against him, Israeli media reports said.
Netanyahu is enmeshed in three graft cases. He has said he would not bow out of the election race if Israel’s attorney-general announces his intention to accept police recommendations to indict him.
Should he decide on an indictment, the attorney-general would, under Israeli law, then hold a hearing with Netanyahu in which the prime minister and his lawyers could make their case against filing charges in court.
There has been mounting speculation in Israel that an indictment decision will be announced in the next few weeks, before election day.
Police have alleged that Netanyahu granted regulatory favors to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more positive coverage on a news website belonging to the firm’s owner.
In a second case, police contend that Netanyahu received expensive gifts from wealthy friends. A third investigation focuses on suspicions that Netanyahu negotiated a deal with one newspaper for better coverage in return for promises to back legislation that would have limited the circulation of a rival.


Illegal immigration, refugees top Arab-EU Summit agenda

Updated 24 February 2019
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Illegal immigration, refugees top Arab-EU Summit agenda

  • Heads of state, officials from EU and Arab League member countries to attend summit today
  • Some 19.5 million people globally have been forced to flee their countries

CAIRO: Egypt on Sunday will host heads of state, government officials and representatives from EU and Arab League member countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Bahrain’s King Hamad.

Refugees and illegal immigration will top the agenda amid the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

Some 19.5 million people globally have been forced to flee their countries. According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), Syrians constitute the largest refugee population in Europe, followed by Eritreans then Afghans. 

According to unofficial statistics, Syrians are also the largest refugee population in the Arab world, followed by Yemenis, Libyans and Sudanese.

Hossam El-Khouli, secretary-general of the Egyptian Nation’s Future Party, said: “The EU … should call for the repatriation of refugees if conditions are appropriate.”

He said: “As for the right of asylum … a number of countries have granted asylum to criminals who have committed violent crimes against their own people and homelands.”

Summit participants intend to debate the necessity of combating this kind of migration, especially given its impact on the security and economy of many countries. 

Margaret Azer, an Egyptian lawmaker, said a country’s economic conditions are one of the main drivers of illegal immigration. 

“The decline of political conditions in several countries is (also) contributing to the rise in numbers of people seeking illegal immigration,” she told Arab News. 

“For example, we see that the biggest percentage of immigrants in Europe are from countries like Syria and Libya. The reason could also be religious or sectarian persecution, as is the case in Myanmar.”

Frontex President Fabrice Leggeri said although the number of migrants arriving in Europe dropped to 150,114 in 2018 compared to 204,750 in 2017, the agency continues to support border controls by providing more workers and technology.