Police recommend Israeli PM Netanyahu be indicted on corruption, bribery charges

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Police in Israel on Tuesday recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime prime minister, be indicted on charges of corruption and bribery.

The move came two months after Israeli media first reported that Netanyahu was grilled by police investigators for more than three hours at his official residence on suspicion of receiving illicit gifts and favors from wealthy donors.

“Bibi,” as he is known to Israelis, is also accused of working out a deal for favorable coverage with the publisher of an Israeli newspaper called Yediot Aharonot in exchange for backing a bill that would weaken a rival newspaper called Israel Hayom.

“Police have concluded is that there is sufficient evidence against the prime minister on suspicions for the offense of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust,” a police spokesman said in a statement listening the alleged offenses.

Now that police have made the recommendation, the decision on whether to actually indict Netanyahu rests with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Mandelblit, 54, is Netanyahu’s former cabinet secretary and he has already rebuffed calls to recuse himself from this case.

Netanyahu is no stranger to scandal. But this is the first time he faces the possibility of being formally charged with a crime.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Netanyahu once again called the charges “baseless” and said “I’ll continue to lead Israel responsibly as long as the people of Israel elect me.”

The 68-year-old Israeli leader, who is serving his third consecutive term as prime minister and his fourth overall, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu even leveled a public broadside last week against Israeli Police Chief Roni Alsheikh, who is leading the investigation.

After Alsheikh told Israeli television that “powerful figures” had hired people to “sniff around” the detectives working on the Netanyahu case, the prime minister accused him of saying “delusional things.”

Earlier, after Netanyahu was questioned by police, he tweeted: “There won’t be anything because there is nothing.” He also decried “years of daily persecution against me and my family.”

But Netanyahu and his family’s luxurious lifestyle – often at taxpayers’ expense – has also previously come under scrutiny.

Five years ago, Netanyahu was criticized for reportedly spending $127,000 in public funds for a special sleeping cabin for a five-and-a-half hour flight to London for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. That came just months after the Netanyahu family’s taxpayer-funded food budget included $2,700 for artisanal pistachio and French vanilla ice cream.

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