Netanyahu would have to step down if indicted: minister


Jerusalem (AFP)

A senior Israeli minister has said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to resign if indicted on corruption charges or face being dropped by his coalition government.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's remarks suggest Netanyahu's right wing coalition remains fragile despite this week surviving a crisis that nearly brought it down.

Police in February recommended Netanyahu be indicted on two cases of alleged corruption, while a third investigation regarding supposed favours sought from the head of the country's largest telecommunications firms is ongoing.

The Israeli attorney general is due to rule in the coming months on whether to pursue the indictment.

Netanyahu, 68, has been in power nearly 12 years in total and denies all charges.

Under Israeli law he does not have to step down even if indicted but Kahlon, leader of the centre right Kulanu party, said his position would become untenable.

"If a trial begins against the prime minister, he will no longer be able to fulfil his duties," he told Israel's second channel in an interview to be published later Friday, excerpts of which were released earlier.

"He will get up and leave or the other parties will go away."

Netanyahu's government narrowly survived a crisis over military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews this week when a compromise was reached between different members of the coalition that allowed the budget to be passed.

Critics accused Netanyahu of supporting the crisis that nearly led to early legislative elections, with his Likud party still strongest in the polls.

An electoral victory would have reinforced his position and lent weight to his argument he is the subject of a media and police witch-hunt.

Netanyahu has insisted his government, made up of six centre and rightwing parties, is stable.