JERUSALEM — 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.
Netanyahu denied the latest allegations. But his fate now lies in the hands of his attorney general, who will decide in the coming months whether the prime minister should stand trial on a host of corruption allegations that could play a central role in next year’s election campaign.
In a scathing attack on police investigators in a speech on Sunday, Netanyahu called the investigation a “witch hunt” that was “tainted from the start.”
“Israel is a law-abiding country. And in a law-abiding country police recommendations have no legal weight,” he told his Likud party at a Hannukah candle-lighting ceremony. Most of his half-hour holiday speech went to dismissing the allegations, and the boisterous crowd of hundreds of party members rallied behind him.
Sunday’s decision followed a lengthy investigation into a case involving Netanyahu’s relationship with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel’s telecom giant Bezeq.
Police said they found sufficient evidence that confidants of Netanyahu promoted regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq. In exchange, they believe Netanyahu used his connections with Elovitch to receive positive press coverage on Bezeq’s popular news site Walla.
In a statement, police said the investigation concluded that Netanyahu and Elovitch engaged in a “bribe-based relationship.”
Police said they believed there was sufficient evidence to charge Netanyahu and his wife Sara with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.