Israel police recommends PM Netanyahu be charged with bribery

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing

Authorities on Sunday alleged Netanyahu awarded regulatory favours to Bezeq, Israel's largest telecommunications group, in return for more positive coverage of him and his wife on Bezeq's subsidiary news website, Walla. Mr Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

If charged, the four-term prime minister would be facing one of the greatest challenges to his political survival. Despite his dominance of Israeli politics, the newest police recommendation comes just after his right-wing coalition's majority was reduced to a precarious one seat in parliament.

Livni, who also leads the Hatnuah liberal party, issued the call shortly after the police recommended indicting the premier and his wife, as well as media mogul Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris, for bribery and other corruption allegations in an investigation dubbed Case 4000.

If true, this would constitute bribery, as Netanyahu worked to set government policies that would increase monetary profits in exchange for positive media coverage.

Mr Netanyahu did not mention the allegations in his comments at the start of a cabinet meeting later in the day.

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

Elections are now scheduled for November 2019.

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Police said they have enough evidence to show Netanyahu and his wife Sara accepted bribes and committed fraud and breach of trust.

Mr Elovitch was chairman and controlling shareholder of Bezeq at the time of the allegations. The authorities said there was also evidence to charge the company's then-CEO Stella Handler with fraud. They were both arrested and detained briefly earlier this year and have resigned from Bezeq.

Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu.

It's believed that Netanyahu fired Communications Ministry Director-General Avi Berger and hired his loyalist and ex-campaign manager Shlomo Filber in order to provide Elovitch and his companies special treatment.

Police said they have established an evidentiary foundation to charge the pair with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.

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.

"I am certain that the authorized officials, after considering the matters, will reach the same conclusion in this case as well - that there was nothing because there is nothing", Netanyahu further said on Sunday.

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