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The BBC's Hilary Anderson
"Now that he's been let off the hook, its widely expected that he'll try to take the over the leadership of the Likud party"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
Netanyahu charges dropped
Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Mr Netanyahu strongly denied the corruption charges
Corruption charges filed against Israel's former Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, have been dropped.

The Israeli Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein says there is insufficient evidence to bring Mr Netanyahu to court.

"I have decided to close the file against Mr Netanyahu on the allegations against him due to a lack of sufficient evidence necessary to put him on criminal trial." said Mr Rubinstein.

Mr Netanyahu and his wife Sara were alleged to have accepted free services from a private contractor and kept official gifts when he left office.

But Mr Netanyahu and his wife have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

In his 22-page report Judge Rubinstein said the case against the Netanyahus would "not stand up to the test of a reasonable chance of conviction," and added that he had some "discomfort" about it.

Possible comeback

Mr Netanyahu was elected as Israel's youngest prime minister in 1996 but was defeated by a landslide in 1999 by Ehud Barak.

He also lost the leadership of his right-wing Likud party and said he was taking "time out" of politics for a while.

Latest opinion polls show his popularity on the rise again - he is running neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the polls.

Likud party member, Reuven Rivlin, immediately invited Mr Netanyahu back to the party.

"I call on Benjamin Netanyahu... to return immediately to activity," he told Israeli army radio and added "Likud has to completely turn its attention to the fight against the prime minister."

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Middle East
Netanyahu launches TV defence
28 Mar 00 | Middle East
The Netanyahus: A colourful partnership
27 Jan 00 | Middle East
The whiff of scandal
21 Oct 99 | Middle East
Netanyahu quizzed by police
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