Israeli police on Tuesday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery in two criminal investigations but the Israeli leader, calling the allegations baseless, vowed to remain in office.
Netanyahu accepted almost US$300,000 (S$396,183) in gifts between 2007 and 2016 from two businessmen, Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer - gifts that grew in "scope and frequency" after Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009. In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of conspiring with the owner of Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper to undermine Israel Hayom, a competing free daily backed by US casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, chairman and majority owner of Las Vegas Sands Corp.
"I feel a deep obligation to continue to lead Israel in a way that will ensure our future", he said. That recommendation goes to Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, who will decide whether to file charges against a sitting Israeli prime minister for the first time.
A police statement said there was sufficient evidence against Mr Netanyahu on suspicion of "fraud and breach of trust in connection with the Australian businessman James Packer". Declaring the investigation to be "slander", he accused the police of attempting to oust him from power, and he insisted both on his innocence and that he has no plans to step down from his post. But it would certainly cripple his ability to govern in what is already a shaky coalition government of hard-liners and liberals. Netanyahu said he wanted to coordinate any such "historic" move with the United States because of the country's strategic importance to Israel, his spokesman said. Last year, Ehud Olmert, prime minister from 2006 to 2009, was released from prison after serving 19 months of a 27-month sentence over a variety of corruption charges.
The police say that there is also strong evidence to charge Mozes as well as Milchan.
A TV channel stake: Netanyahu, in his capacity as communications minister, tried to help Milchan become a shareholder in Israeli television's Channel 2.
The announcement by police does not mean Netanyahu will be charged.
The gifts allegedly included expensive cigars, jewellery and champagne, with a total value of some one million shekels (€229,000, $283,000).
Mr Netanyahu, prime minister for almost 12 years, addressed the nation as news of the recommendations broke, proclaiming his innocence and pledging to continue to lead the country.
Mr Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, has been questioned several times since the start of 2017.
Netanyahu previously has said about the investigation, "there will be nothing, because there is nothing".