Israeli police recommend indicting PM Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an Likud Party gathering marking the first day of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Ramat Gan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an Likud Party gathering marking the first day of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Ramat Gan

When police initially said he should be charged, Netanyahu said it was an attempt by his opponents to unseat him through corruption allegations because they couldn't win at the ballot box.

The latest round of allegations comprise the third corruption case to be levelled against the Israeli leader. It deals with the relationship between the Ministry of Communications - then under Netanyahu - and Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq.

Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu. News, which is owned by Elovitch.

Police say their investigation includes the testimony of at least 60 witnesses and five years'work. Netanyahu, who just two weeks ago brought his coalition from the brink of collapse after a junior partner bolted, denied any wrongdoing.

"The police recommendations regarding me and my wife don't surprise anyone", Netanyahu said in a statement.

Earlier this year, investigators also recommended that Netanyahu be tried for allegedly taking almost $300,000 worth of gifts including expensive cigars and champagne from wealthy friends including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

Some analysts have said Netanyahu could call a snap vote in light of the legal proceedings against him.

"There was nothing because there is nothing", he concluded.

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The decision whether to indict falls to Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, who still hasn't ruled on the two other corruption cases in which police have already said Netanyahu should be indicted. The country's attorney general will now decide on whether to prosecute, with no announcement expected before the end of next year.

The Bezeq case, known as Case 4000, is the most serious of all those of which Netanyahu has been accused.

Israelis have been holding protests to demand the prime minister's resignation over the corruption scandals, but Netanyahu has described the events as part of efforts meant to topple him "at any cost".

He is also suspected of negotiating favorable press coverage with the Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in Case 2000.

A week later, his wife was indicted for allegedly misusing a total of 350,000 shekels (around US$96,000) in official funds to order extravagant meals at their official residence in Jerusalem between 2010 and 2013.

Police said Sunday their investigation found that between 2012 and 2017, "the prime minister and his confidantes crudely and consistently, at times on a daily basis, intervened in the content published by the Walla news website". The people of Israel deserve a clean leadership. Those benefits included restricting competition in the Israeli ground-line phone market, among other decisions taken by Netanyahu in the years he served as communications minister.

Under Israeli law, Netanyahu does not have to resign until he is convicted and that conviction is upheld through the appeals process.

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