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Israel’s coalition chairman quits amid corruption investigation


Jerusalem –   Israel’s coalition chairman, also one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest allies, on Wednesday said he was stepping down due to the ongoing corruption investigation against him.

David Bitan, chairman of Israel’s right-wing coalition and a lawmaker with the Likud, has been at the centre of a wide-ranging criminal investigation over suspicion of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and breach of trust.

“The current situation makes it too difficult for me to function and I don’t want to harm the work and functionality of the coalition.

“This morning, I asked the prime minister to release me from my role as chairman of the coalition.

“Bitan would keep his seat in the parliament for now. I will continue to serve respectfully as a Likud member of the parliament and do all I can to continue to serve the public.

“I thank the prime minister for his trust and support,’’ Bitan said in a statement.

Bitan, Netanyahu’s main political arm in the parliament, was appointed by Netanyahu to serve as the chairman of the coalition two years ago.

He is one of the Israel’s coalition chairman quits amid corruption investigationmost vocal defenders of Netanyahu, and is being investigated in two cases of alleged corruption.

David Amselam, another lawmaker with the Likud and a close ally of Netanyahu was newly appointed as chairman.

David Bitan and David Amsalem were the two main sponsors of the so-called “recommendation bill.’’

The bill aims to end the police’s present practice of recommending the general attorney office whether to press charges against a suspect upon concluding their investigation.

Bitan is suspected of taking bribes from a criminal organisation head when he was a politician in the municipality of Rishon Lezion, Israel’s fourth-largest city, located south of Tel Aviv.

He was questioned three times by the police.

According to Channel 2 News TV, the police are close to striking a deal with a key suspect to become a state witness. (Xinhua/NAN)

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