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Police approved Netanyahu's request to confront witnesses: report

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, sits next to Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, May 19, 2013
AP Photo/Ronen Zvulun, Pool

A request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to confront state witnesses in a number of corruption investigations against him was approved but he never followed through with it, Israel’s Hadashot TV cited an unnamed official as saying.

“We understood that Netanyahu didn’t want a confrontation because he didn’t get back to use. To (now) say he wants one after the probe has ended is (due to) his desire to stop a decision he realizes is to be made very soon,” the official close to Netanyahu’s investigations told Hadashot TV.

In an unprecedented TV appearance on Monday, Netanyahu took the opportunity to call out the legal systems in Israel that he claimed were being used to perpetrate an injustice against him, decrying that he was twice refused the ability to confront the state witnesses in the cases.

“Today, I reveal to you that during my investigations, I demanded a face-to-face confrontation with states witnesses. I was refused. I asked again. I was refused again,” he told his captive national audience.

Following Hadashot TV's report on Wednesday, the Israeli Prime Minister’s lawyers denied the claim.

“The prime minister demanded twice to confront the state witnesses and the fact that now confrontation was held is a scandal that rests entirely on the shoulders of police,” they said.

A senior official from the State Prosecutor’s Office told Army Radio on Tuesday said Netanyahu had no right to demand a confrontation with state witnesses.

“The Israeli public is being deceived, and not for the first time, by Netanyahu who is making use of the masses’ stupidity, meaning their lack of knowledge in those subjects. Anyway, no suspect has any right to a confrontation (during a police investigation) and it is inappropriate to hold an unnecessary and damaging confrontation,” Army Radio quoted the unnamed official as saying.

JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

“Netanyahu wants to assert his power, weight and status to disrupt the investigation. In a confrontation with him, those state witnesses could give a different statement than what they gave police,” the official added.

Netanyahu responded to the report by Army Radio on Tuesday, saying: “Yesterday I asked what are they afraid of. Now it is revealed that they are afraid of the truth. I demand to confront the state witnesses now. The public must know the whole truth.”

Opposition figures harshly criticized the statement as a stunt and said it was time for Netanyahu to be defeated.

“In a normal country, a prime minister does not behave this way. In a normal country, the prime minister does not attack the law enforcement authorities,” Labor leader Avi Gabbay said following Netanyahu’s primetime statement. “Instead of dealing with the security of the residents of the south, the cost of living, or the health system collapsing, Netanyahu is busy rescuing himself from the investigations.”

"Netanyahu is no longer qualified to fulfill his role," opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said, calling the speech a "fake drama".

Police have recommended Netanyahu's indictment in three separate corruption investigations and the attorney general is expected to announce his decision on whether to indict the prime minister in the weeks or months ahead.

The prime minister has faced widespread criticism in recent days for his efforts to publicly urge the attorney general not to issue his decision on indictments before the elections.

In his Monday speech, he said he has the right to criticize the legal proceedings and again argued that the attorney general moving to indict him before elections would be unjust.

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