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Israel Rejects Netanyahu Trial

September 27, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel’s attorney-general on Wednesday rejected a police recommendation to try former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges, clearing the way for the popular hard-liner to challenge Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

In a 22-page statement distributed to news organizations, Elyakim Rubinstein cited ``difficulties with the evidence″ that made a conviction of Netanyahu and his wife Sara unlikely. Police suspected the couple of conspiring with a government contractor in a kickback scheme, illegally keeping gifts, and obstructing justice.

``I have decided to close the file against Mr. Netanyahu concerning the suspicions attributed to him because of evidence insufficient for a criminal trial,″ Rubinstein said.

The announcement comes at a sensitive time for Barak, who soundly defeated Netanyahu in May 1999 elections. His far-reaching peace proposals have lost him majority support in Parliament, and Netanyahu’s hard-line Likud party hopes to force him out once Parliament reconvenes on Oct. 30.

Recent polls indicate that Barak would handily defeat Netanyahu’s successor, Ariel Sharon, but the same polls show Barak and Netanyahu in a dead heat.

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