Netanyahu accuses Israeli left, media of trying to oust him

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused his leftist opponents and the country’s media on Wednesday of trying to oust his government by pressuring investigators to indict him “at any cost”.

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Netanyahu, 67, has been questioned under caution by police in two cases. “Case 1000” deals with gifts given to him and his family by businessmen, while a second, “Case 2000”, is related to conversations he held with an Israeli publisher.

Police have also questioned his wife, Sara, over her alleged misuse of official funds. Israeli media said this week that the attorney-general was poised to issue an indictment against her.

“The media and the left, which serves it... contrive endless scandals, endless reports and endless headlines so that maybe, maybe something will stick,” he told a rally of his right-wing Likud party in a speech broadcast live on the three main Israeli television channels.

“They demand from the law-enforcement authorities: ‘give us something, doesn’t matter what’,” Netanyahu told supporters, who waved Israeli flags and chanted his nickname “Bibi, Bibi”.

“The left’s and the media’s ... aim is to put pressure, which is wrong, on the law enforcement authorities to bring an indictment at any cost, without any connection to the truth, without any connection to justice.”

Netanyahu, who last won an election in 2015, has weathered several scandals and police inquiries during his 11 years in office. His approval ratings are generally solid, putting him ahead of potential challengers.

The Israeli leader has described the din of criminal investigations around him as “background noise” and has dismissed speculation he will be forced to resign by saying simply on Facebook this week: “Won’t happen.”

He quipped in his speech that there were rumors that even his family dog, Kaia, would be called in for questioning.

Case 1,000 involves Netanyahu and family members receiving gifts on a regular basis from two businessmen. Israeli media have reported that the gifts included cigars and champagne.

Case 2,000 involves a deal Netanyahu allegedly discussed with the owner of one of Israel’s largest newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth, for better coverage in return for curbs on competition from a free paper owned by U.S. casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The latter paper has long supported the prime minister.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

In his speech on Wednesday Netanyahu also accused Palestinian officials of seeking his demise but said he would not yield to their demands for Israeli concessions in peace talks that have been frozen since 2014.

“My friends, they too will be disappointed, because it won’t happen,” he said.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones