Israel's Netanyahu says he will avoid graft charges


Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he would avoid corruption charges after he was questioned in two graft probes.

At a rally near Tel Aviv, he implied police would recommend he be indicted but that there would be no follow-up.

"There will be recommendations from the police to charge me, and then what?" the premier told a crowd of supporters from his Likud party.

Fraud squad detectives questioned Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence on Friday, for the seventh time in a nearly year-long corruption probe.

In one investigation, the prime minister is suspected of illegally receiving gifts from wealthy personalities including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

In a second case, Netanyahu allegedly sought a secret pact for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

The purported scheme, not believed to have been finalised, would have seen him receive favourable coverage in return for helping curb Yediot's competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

The 68-year-old premier has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and says he is the target of a smear campaign by political opponents.

Thousands of Israelis have protested in recent weeks to demand legal action against "corrupt" people in the government and their resignation.