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Israeli police have recommended indicting Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a case relating to the country’s telecoms giant Bezeq.
In return, Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch — who stood to make hundreds of millions of shekels from these decisions — instructed the editors of his popular Walla! news site to cover the prime minister and his wife favourably.
Along with Mr Netanyahu, police are also recommending indictments against his wife Sara, as well as Mr Elovitch and his wife Iris.
Mr Netanyahu said they had “no legal standing”.
This case, known as Case 4000, is the third in which the police have recommended indicting the prime minister for bribery.
The investigation into the Bezeq allegations began in 2016 as a financial frauds probe into the company, but was expanded to a full criminal investigation into the prime minister's dealings with the Elovitch couple early this year.
“Netanyahu and those close to him blatantly intervened, sometimes on a daily basis, in content published on the Walla news website, and sought to influence the appointment of senior employees (editors and reporters), while using their ties to Shaul and Iris Elovitch,” the police recommendation said on Sunday.
Mr Netanyahu in a statement said the recommendations “don't surprise anyone, nor does the transparent timing of the announcement”, referring to it being the last day of Police Commissioner Ronny Alsheikh’s tenure.
The prime minister continued: “These recommendations were decided on and leaked even before the investigations began. The police recommendations have no legal standing.
“Only recently, responsible officials totally rejected police recommendations regarding a number of public figures.
“I am certain that the responsible officials, after considering the matters, will reach the same conclusion in this case as well; that there was nothing because there is nothing.”
Lawyers representing the Elovitch couple also denied their clients had done anything illegal.
The latest police recommendation joins those made in February by the police in Cases 1000 and 2000, which involve allegedly illegal gifts received by the prime minister and his wife from businessmen and his dealings with the owner of the newspaper Yedioth Ahronot.
Earlier this year, police recommended charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against Mr Netanyahu.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt has already decided to unify all three cases and make one joint decision on whether to indict and on which of the charges.
Mr Mandelblitt's decision is expected in the first half of 2019, most likely before the upcoming Knesset elections.
But any decision he does make would trigger months of pre-trial hearings for all the potential defendants, a process that could take months.
Should a court case come, it will not be before 2020.
That means that if Mr Netanyahu were to win the next elections, he will have to fight petitions in the High Court against an indicted prime minister remaining in office.