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No indictment for Netanyahu


P.M.: "I committed no wrongdoing"

April 20, 1997
Web posted at: 2:14 p.m. EDT (1814 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli prosecutors Sunday decided against indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an influence-peddling scandal plaguing his government, but did issue charges against Shas party leader and a key coalition ally, Aryeh Deri.

"We have decided to close the file for lack of evidence against the prime minister, the justice minister and attorney (Roni) Bar-On," Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein said Sunday. "It was a very difficult decision for us to reach, in fact one of the most difficult we have ever had to reach."

Netanyahu told CNN's Walter Rodgers he was "glad that the truth came out," and said the entire incident was "blown out of proportion and twisted out of shape."

"It's politics," he said in an interview shortly after the attorney general released his report. "Of course there were people out to get us. But this is going nowhere. It's done. It's finished." icon (303K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"The attorney general said what I knew all along -- I committed no wrongdoing," he said. "I made mistakes, and I have to correct them."icon (287K/13 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The prosecutors' decision was made in the wake of a 995-page police report on the promotion of Bar-On to attorney general three months ago.

An Israeli television station sparked the investigation when it alleged that Bar-On got the job to help Deri, on trial for corruption, in return for Deri's support of Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank.

Bar-On and Deri

Bar-On resigned 12 hours after his appointment following a barrage of criticism that he was unqualified for the job.

State Attorney Edna Arbel and Rubinstein met until late Saturday night preparing their report, and delayed the announcement until all four parties were informed of the decision.


Police had recommended fraud and breach of public trust charges against Netanyahu. They had also proposed charging his chief political aide Avigdor Lieberman, Deri, and Justice Minister Tsachi Hanegbi. Rubinstein said Sunday that no decision has been made regarding Lieberman.

Netanyahu's government could be in trouble despite the decision not to indict him. Some members of his mostly religious and right-wing coalition have threatened to pull their support if the allegations of corruption prove true.

Regardless, said Netanyahu spokesman David Bar-Illan, the scandal detracts from Netanyahu's ability to focus on the weakening Mideast peace process.

Bar-Illan said Netanyahu is unlikely to call for new elections unless he is forced to do so by defections from the coalition, but opposition parties are expected to push for a new vote.

The opposition also could ask Israel's High Court of Justice to force charges against Netanyahu.


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