Israeli police recommend PM Netanyahu be charged with bribery

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Israeli police on Sunday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery charges, adding to a growing collection of legal troubles that have clouded the longtime leader's prospects for pursuing re-election next year.

A statement issued on Sunday says that Netanyahu is suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for policy decisions that favored Shaul Elovitch, a media mogul that controlled Israel's largest telecom firm, Bezeq, and the Walla News website.

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 Israeli prime minister, however, dismissed the accusations against himself and his wife, saying the recommendations had already been determined "even before the investigations began". "I am sure that in this case, too, the relevant authorities, after examining things, will arrive at the same conclusion - there was nothing because there is nothing", he said.

Netanyahu last month was almost forced to call elections after a key partner withdrew from his coalition to protest a cease-fire with the Hamas militant group in Gaza.

This is the third corruption probe in which police have recommended charges against the prime minister.

They recommended Sara Netanyahu face charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of evidence.

Both Netanyahu and his wife have been hounded by corruption allegations.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of having received gifts from businessmen overseas totaling 1 million shekels (approximately $280,000), including cigars, champagne, jewelry and more, from 2007 through 2016.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a media witch hunt.

During the meeting, Hefetz allegedly asked to coordinate an agreed-upon version of events in case police were looking into the possibility - as the Case 4000 indictment alleges - that Netanyahu had granted vast regulatory benefits to Bezeq in exchange for overwhelmingly positive coverage in Walla. Mr Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing. "There was no fraud, no breach of trust or any other felony".

Opposition leader Avi Gabbay, chairman of the Zionist Union party, called for the Prime Minister to stand down immediately.

"The question is what will happen first: Will the attorney-general decide to prosecute or will the Government collapse?" said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Netanyahu held the government's communications portfolio until past year and oversaw regulation in the field.