Netanyahu: Suspicions Against Me Unfounded, Media Pressuring Law Enforcement

Politicians respond to report that police have recordings of Netanyahu negotiating mutual benefits with businessmen. Israeli coalition chairman: Netanyahu could remain in power even if indicted; MK Zehava Galon calls on attorney general to resign over conflict of interest; MK Amsalem accuses police of plotting coup.

Illustration: Netanyahu carries a pile of wrapped gifts, protected by Knesset Members David Bitan and David Amsalem, who are armed with guns.
Amos Biderman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday morning that after undergoing two rounds of investigations he believes that the suspicions against him are unfounded.

Netanyhau made the remarks following Haaretz's report that the police have recordings of the premier that document alleged negotiations with a businessman over mutual benefits. The material that appears to back the main corruption suspicions against Netanyahu have been in Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's possession since spring. 

>> Update: The businessman at the center of the probe has been identified as media mogul Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily. << 

"Unfortunately, I can't give the details," Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud ministers. "What I can tell you today, knowing what this is about, and I tell you this with complete confidence: There will be nothing because there is nothing."

"What you have here is unacceptable and relentless pressure of figures in the media on law enforcement officials," he said.

Coalition Chairman David Bitan said Sunday that he doesn’t believe that Netanyahu will be indicted with corruption, and even if he is, the "premier could remain in power."  

"I haven't heard the recording, and I don't know if there is a recording," Bitan told Army Radio. "If a tape exists, it's very grave that someone would record the prime minister."

The chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, Zehava Galon, also responded to the report, calling on the attorney general to suspend himself from the investigation due to a "serious conflict of interest."

"For three months, the police had recordings of Prime Minister Netanyahu negotiating with a businessman over mutual benefits," Galon said. "It's unacceptable that in light of all this, Mendelblit didn't immediately start an investigation, weakening the suspicions with the whitewashed word 'inquiry.'"

The delay for the investigation suggests that Mendelblit was giving Netanyahu special treatment, Galon said, and "raises suspicions of a serious conflict of interest."

The chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, MK David Amsalem (Likud), told Israel Radio that he "has no idea" where the information regarding the tape comes from.  "I suppose the prime minister should be questioned and no one is meant to know what about at this time."

Amsalem also accused the police of trying to instigate a coup against Netanyahu. 

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, said on Twitter that Netanyahu will not be able to remain prime minister. "The honest among his ministers will have to walk him out or lose their world," he said. " This is a sad day, but we don't have another country. 

MK Tzipi Livni also addressed the investigations into Netanyahu, saying that "Israel deserves the prime minister to think of what he gives the citizens, and not what the rich people around him give him and his family."