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  • A Likud election billboard, depicting Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a main entrance to Tel Aviv, Israel Feb. 3, 3019.

    A Likud election billboard, depicting Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a main entrance to Tel Aviv, Israel Feb. 3, 3019. | Photo: REUTERS

Published 3 February 2019

Netanyahu's Likud party seeks to latch onto Trump's popularity in Israel in a bid to influence votes before April's elections.

A giant billboard of a smiling Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loomed over a main entrance to Tel Aviv on Sunday, part of the Israeli leader's re-election campaign.

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Trump is popular in Israel because of his tough policies toward the Palestinians and Iran and his transfer last May of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he recognized as Israel's capital in a break from long-standing U.S. policy.

"Netanyahu. In another league," read the Hebrew-language billboard, in a swipe at the caliber of the veteran prime minister's opponents in the April 9 national election.

A spokesman for Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, whose logo adorns the sign over Tel Aviv's busy Ayalon highway, did not immediately respond to a Reuters query on whether the White House had authorized it to use the photograph.

Netanyahu is favorite to win the election but opinion polls show one of his toughest challengers, former general Benny Gantz, making gains.

The prime minister is facing possible charges in three graft cases. He denies any wrongdoing and has called the investigations a witch-hunt.

Back in December, the police recommended for a third time that Netanyahu be charged with fraud, accepting bribes, and breach of trust saying they had enough evidence for charges to be barought against him and his wife Sara

At that time, Netanyahu said he would not consider resigning in the event that the attorney general moves forward to indict him.

Israeli police say said they had enough evidence for bribery and fraud charges to be brought against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, which is what prompted the attorney general to initiate the investigation in the first place.

As the corruption probe gained momentum, the PM did an about-face on holding early elections in April. At first, he called such a move a “historic mistake,” but as the probe against him deepened, he announced with “confidence” that there was a “unanimous” agreement to do so within his party. 

Netanyahu has been in power for three consecutive terms since 2009 and also led Israel from 1996-1999. A fifth election victory would give him the most in Israeli history. 

On Friday, Israel's attorney general said there was no legal reason to prevent him from announcing, before the election, any intention to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges should he decide such a move was warranted.

Formal indictment in court would depend on pre-trial hearings, likely to be held only after the poll.

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