Netanyahu's party accuses election rival of graft

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has accused his main election rival of "corruption" ahead of an April 9 poll as the premier himself awaits indictment on graft charges.

"Likud calls on the public prosecutor to open an immediate criminal investigation against Benny Gantz," Science Minister Ofir Akounis told journalists in Tel Aviv.

Citing a report issued by state comptroller Yossef Shapira, he said centrist Gantz, a former military chief and key challenger to Netanyahu, was directly implicated in a "serious case of corruption".

Shapira's report, released Wednesday, said Gantz had sought a contract with the Israeli police in 2016 for products produced by his high-tech company Fifth Dimension.

The report cites irregularities in contacts between Gantz's company and then-police commander Roni Alsheikh.

The comptroller did not give details on actions by Gantz's firm as he has no remit to investigate private companies.

The contracts were never signed because Gantz's firm ceased operations.

"Israel is a state of law and there are one set of laws for Netanyahu and different laws for others," Akounis said.

Netanyahu is already under threat of indictment for corruption in several cases.

Last week, he said he was suing his election rivals for libel after Gantz claimed the premier profited by 16 million shekels ($4.4 million) from his stock rising on the strength of a deal to buy submarines from Germany.

Another member of Gantz's Blue and White coalition, Moshe Yaalon, said Netanyahu's actions "could reach as far as treason".