Police recommend corruption charges for Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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In the second case, known as "File 2000", Netanyahu reportedly was recorded asking Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yediot Ahronot daily, for positive coverage in exchange for promoting legislation that would weaken a free newspaper that had cut into Yediot's business.

In December, the Knesset passed a law sponsored by a member of Netanyahu's party making it harder for police to disclose when they recommend indictments of top officials.

Referring to a recent interview his chief of police gave an investigative TV show in which he levied unsubstantiated accusations against the PM, Netanyahu said "the recommendations published tonight are accompanied by a heavy shadow". Police also recommended that Israeli billionaire businessman Arnon Milchan who allegedly provided the Netanyahus with an estimated $200,000 in luxury cigars and champagne, should also be put on trial for bribery, as should Mozes.

Israel Police on Tuesday night announced it has collected evidence showing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took bribes in two cases, acting contrary to the interests of the state. The attorney general will now review their conclusions and decide whether to file charges.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a rival of Netanyahu, called on him to suspend himself and for the coalition to appoint a replacement on Wednesday morning.

In all, the gifts were worth more than one million shekels ($356,000), the statement said.

Mr Packer was voluntarily interviewed by the Australian Federal Police as a witness in the ongoing investigation late past year.

In the first case, dubbed by the police "case 1000", Netanyahu allegedly accepted bribery from an Israeli businessman and Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan and an Australian businessman, James Packer.

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It remains to be seen how Mr Netanyahu can continue to function as Israeli prime minister, dealing with the hard security issues this entails, while fighting to clear his name.

Mr Netanyahu's lawyers have said the presents were simply tokens of friendship and no favours were given in return.

Visa trouble: Netanyahu lobbied the secretary of state at the time, John Kerry, and the USA ambassador to Israel at the time, Daniel B. Shapiro, to help Milchan deal with a problem extending his visa, which had "far-reaching financial significance" to the producer.

In the immediate aftermath of the police announcement, reactions quickly fell along partisan lines. "They will eliminate all global efforts to save the political process", Nabil Abu Rudeina said. "Citizens of Israel, you know that all the work that I have done was with the good of the State of Israel in mind". No one, not I, not anyone else, has plans to go to an election.

"Certainly not in the systematic and planned way that is being put to me", Channel 10 reported Mr Netanyahu as telling investigators.

Mr Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.

Last week, Netanyahu lashed out at police in a rare attack as indications grew that detectives were preparing to recommend his indictment, questioning their ability to act fairly.

He has already faced a series of large protests in Tel Aviv over the corruption cases.

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