Israeli police probing major political corruption case

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's police said Wednesday they are investigating dozens of public figures and politicians in a major corruption case that could impact upcoming elections.

Police didn't name the politicians involved when making the announcement on Wednesday. After a yearlong covert operation, police said they are investigating 30 suspects including a deputy minister, a former minister, mayors and others.

In a statement, police said officials are suspected of nepotism, and illegally transferring funds to various bodies.

Deputy Interior Minister, Faina Kirshenbaum, of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beteinu party, confirmed that she had been called in for questioning while denying any wrongdoing.

"I am sure of my integrity and I have no clue what the investigation is about," Kirshenbaum told Channel 2 TV.

Yisrael Beteinu is an important player in Israeli elections set for March. It is not clear how the police investigation would affect the politicians involved or the elections.

Lieberman himself was recently investigated for corruption, but was cleared of wrongdoing in 2013.

Lieberman's party could play a pivotal role in the elections. He has traditionally allied with the right-wing bloc but recent comments have raised questions about a potential strategic shift.

Lieberman chastised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his strategy in talks with the Palestinians during a conference at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday. He warned Israel would face a "diplomatic tsunami" and its economy and foreign relations would suffer without an agreement. U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed last spring.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, Lieberman sounded like a dovish politician when he spoke Tuesday. His nationalist party has a history of taking a hard-line toward the Palestinians and Lieberman lives in a West Bank settlement.

His comments add uncertainty to the March election as it raises the possibility he might not automatically align his party with Netanyahu's right-wing bloc.

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