Netanyahu After Police Questioning on Corruption Probe: 'Case 4000 Finally Collapsed'

Premier interrogated for 11th time on suspicion that he used position as communications minister to receive favorable coverage ■ Former Bezeq chief Shaul Elovitch also questioned by police

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, Sunday, August 12, 2018.
Jim Hollander,AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned Friday as authorities continue to investigate suspicions that in his role as communications minister from 2014 to 2017, he intervened with regulators to help a telecommunications company in exchange for favorable media coverage.

Friday's questioning marked the eleventh time since the start of 2017 that authorities questioned Netanyahu regarding multiple corruption investigations. Former Bezeq chief Shaul Elovitch was also questioned concurrently with Netanyahu. 

Following the interrogation, Netanyahu's bureau stated the premier believed the investigation, dubbed Case 4000, had "finally collapsed."

"The data proves unequivocally that coverage of Netanyahu in Walla! during (Shaul) Elovitch's term remained negative as it was when Walla! was owned by Amos Schocken, and didn't change when Netanyahu became Communications Minister," said the statement.

In addition to Netanyahu and Elovitch, it was revealed Friday that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan recently gave an open testimony regarding his term as communications minister in 2013-2014 and his stance on Bezeq.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor who is leading the the various investigations tied to Netanyahu has in private conversations complained that Israel’s top two judicial officials are unduly slow in making decisions about the cases, according to sources who claimed to be privy to these alleged conversations.

Tel Aviv District Attorney for Economic and Tax Crimes Liat Ben Ari was heard saying that while the team she heads works quickly and with resolve, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit delay their decisions for many weeks. For example, Ben Ari wanted to question a certain public figure and Mendelblit only made his decision after two months. 

According to Ben Ari, as quoted by a source, this conduct is unintentional, the result of the heavy work load of senior Justice Ministry officials. Nevertheless, she expressed frustration with the pace of progress in the investigations.

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Justice Ministry officials noted that he was last questioned concerning this probe four months ago. Between March and July, Netanyahu and Mendelblit were occupied with security tensions, which may have led to a delay in the investigation. If true, this exemplifies the tension between the attorney general’s two roles — as a close aide to the prime minister on sensitive security matters and as the person who will decides on whether to indict the prime minister.

Two months ago, Gidi Weitz revealed in Haaretz that the investigation of allegations of financial misconduct involving Netanyahu’s official residence was the only one of the Netanyahu investigations that Mendelblit left in the hands of the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office. 

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that the remarks attributed to Ben Ari were incorrect. “We are now formulating recommendations in the different cases and nothing is delaying this. Any urgent matter is dealt with by senior judicial officials by phone or email,” the statement said.

Two months ago, speaking to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Mendelblit addressed claims about the duration of the investigations of Netanyahu. He said that in contrast to public perceptions, the investigations began only around 18 months ago. Investigation of the lavish gifts affair, known as Case 1000, formally began in January 2017, but the examination of the allegations began in July 2016.

In addition to pursuing Case 4000, Ben Ari and her team of lawyers are busy writing a legal opinion in Case 1000 as well as in the Yedioth Ahronoth quid pro quo affair, known as Case 2000. The material in these cases was received last February.