Israeli police said Sunday that they had found enough evidence for bribery and fraud charges to be brought against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in a third corruption case against the Israeli leader.
Authorities allege Netanyahu awarded regulatory favors to Israel's leading telecommunications company Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more positive coverage of him and his wife on the news website Walla, owned by the company. This makes it the most serious case of corruption the prime minister has been accused so far.
If indicted, 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.
The final decision on whether to indict rests with Israel's attorney general, who is still weighing whether to charge Netanyahu in the other two cases.
According to one case, Netanyahu accepted gifts from businessmen and in the second one, he tried to strike a deal with a different media mogul for better coverage in return for curbs on a competing newspaper.
Most of Netanyahu's coalition partners have said they will wait for a decision by the attorney general before making any decisions about how to react to the allegations.
In Sunday's joint statement with the Israel Securities Authority, police said they also found sufficient evidence to charge Shaul Elovitch, a family friend of Netanyahu, with bribery.
At the time Elovitch was chairman and controlling shareholder of Bezeq. Authorities have also said there was evidence to charge the company's then-CEO Stella Handler with fraud.
Netanyahu, Elovitch, and Handler have denied wrongdoing.
Shortly after the police recommendations were made public, Netanyahu issued a statement saying that the allegations had no legal basis and that ultimately nothing would come of the investigation.
"I am sure that also in this case the relevant authorities, after examining the matter, will reach the same conclusion - that there was nothing because there is nothing," he said.
In their statement, the authorities said, "The main suspicion is that the prime minister took bribes and acted out of a conflict of interest by intervening and making regulatory decisions that favor Shaul Elovitch and Bezeq." It alleged that Netanyahu sought to interfere with the content of Bezeq's Walla website "in a way that would benefit him."
Netanyahu served as communications minister from 2015 to 2017.
In June, the Israeli justice minister said that Sara Netanyahu had been charged with fraud over the alleged misuse of state funds in ordering catered meals at their official residence.
The indictment charged that Netanyahu, along with a government employee, fraudulently obtained more than US$100,000 for hundreds of meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations prohibiting the practice if a cook is employed at the home.
The Prime Minister had denied all allegations saying that it was a witch hunt by the media.
Leaders of opposition parties have called on Netanyahu to resign after the news of indictment broke.
"Netanyahu must go home before he destroys the law enforcement in order to save his own skin," Tzipi Livni, Israel’s opposition leader wrote on Twitter. "The people of Israel deserve a clean leadership. Elections now!"
Head of the Labor Party Avi Gabbay and head of the left-wing Meretz party also joined the call asking the PM to resign.