Israel's Netanyahu Demands to Confront His Accusers Publicly

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday demanded that he be allowed to confront former close aides who have turned state’s witness in several corruption cases against him, even inviting them to a public debate.

The Israeli leader, who will stand for re-election April 9, said he’s “4000 percent sure” that he’s innocent of the allegations against him, playing on the name for one of the investigations against him, known as Case 4000. Netanyahu said he had asked to be allowed to confront the state’s witnesses during the police investigation, but was rebuffed.

“What do they have to be afraid of, what do they have to hide?” Netanyahu asked in a prime-time announcement. “I have nothing to hide.”

Early polls show Netanyahu as the heavy favorite to lead his Likud party to victory again at the head of the largest parliamentary bloc, while his opponents are splintering into smaller parties. To date the corruption investigations haven’t cost Likud any support in the polls, though the actual vote is still three months away.

Police have recommended the longtime Israeli leader be charged with bribery in three separate corruption cases, and the attorney general is expected to announce next month whether he intends to press charges. Netanyahu, who moved up elections originally scheduled for November, says it will prejudice voters if legal proceedings against him begin before the election, but aren’t wrapped up in time.

The first two recommendations came in February, when police said they found evidence Netanyahu traded influence for favors. In December police recommended he stand trial for bribery in a third case involving Israel’s large telecommunications carrier, Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp.

Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit now must decide whether to file charges against a sitting Israeli prime minister for the first time. In past cases, attorneys general sometimes have thrown out police recommendations, arguing that the evidence wouldn’t stand up in court.

Netanyahu has described the investigations as a witch hunt waged by left-wing political opponents. He has said he won’t resign if a legal hearing begins before the election.

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