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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu exudes calm amid corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s circle attempted to convey calm Sunday amid reports of a slew of corruptions charges against him that threatened to force him from office.

Netanyahu himself did not address the latest developments at his weekly cabinet meeting, but a close ally said he was relaxed and confident despite reports that police were preparing to recommend he be indicted. “I am not worried at all. The Prime Minister is not worried either,” said sports and culture minister Miri Regev, one of the few ministers to rush to Netanyahu’s defense.

“As he has said repeatedly: ‘there will be nothing, since there is nothing.’ Part of the media and the opposition are doing everything they can to topple the right and topple Netanyahu. It won’t help them. You replace the leadership at the ballot box, not in investigations and not in headlines.”

On Thursday, the Israeli police revealed that they suspected Netanyahu of being involved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a pair of cases.

On Friday, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and longtime confidante Ari Harow signed a state witness settlement in which he agreed to testify against his former mentor.

This has raised speculation that Netanyahu could be indicted shortly, and sparked calls from opposition figures that he step down.

Harow will serve six months of community service and pay a fine of 700,000 Shekels (about $193,000) for his involvement in a separate corruption case – apparently a lighter-than-expected sentence in exchange for his testimony against the prime minister.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and calls the accusations a witch hunt fueled by a hostile media opposed to his hard-line political views.

Netanyahu has been questioned several times “under caution” about his supposed illicit ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood.

One investigation involving Netanyahu dubbed by police as “File 1000,” reportedly concerns claims he improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

The second investigation, “File 2000,” reportedly concerns Netanyahu’s alleged attempts to strike a deal with publisher Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper group to promote legislation to weaken Yediot’s main competitor in exchange for more favorable coverage of Netanyahu by Yediot.

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