Police in recent weeks have examined another case that raises criminal suspicions regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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One particular case had been the focus of its investigation until recently, and has commanded the attention of top state prosecutors, as Haaretz reported in September. Now it emerges there has been a major development involving the investigation of other material regarding Netanyahu, and the police examination now focuses on two cases.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced in July he was opening an examination “in the wake of information that was received on matters that involve the prime minister, among others,“ in the words of the Justice Ministry spokesman’s statement. The examination of Netanyahu came in the wake of copious information that two intelligence sources had provided the police.
Simultaneously, Mendelblit was given other explosive details about the prime minister that many top police officers and prosecutors believed warranted the immediate launching of a criminal investigation. The attorney general, however, refused to allow this. He was relying in part on several police and prosecution figures involved in the inquiry who justified his decision, saying it would ultimately lead to a better result in the case.
Mendelblit, however, has been delaying the launch of a open investigation for several months now. He allowed the police to look into the information he’d received from intelligence sources over the past few months, but he has blocked detectives from summoning certain witnesses, intervened in the wording of the questions asked, and has maintained far tighter supervision of the inquiry than his predecessors did under similar circumstances.
Crucial parts of the information that the two intelligence sources provided did not add up to suspicions of criminality, but neither were they dismissed outright. For example, there was a claim of cheating in the elections for Likud chairman, as well as a story about a second election headquarters being concealed from the state comptroller, to which significant funds apparently flowed from tycoons who are Netanyahu’s close associates. Still, information that the sources provided about these tycoons’ systematic giving of gifts and benefits to Netanyahu and his wife Sara were confirmed by some of the witnesses.
In recent weeks, intensive meetings were held in the Attorney General’s Office about the examination of Netanyahu, with an eye toward making a number of moves intended to shed light on some of the suspicions against the prime minister and his circles. One open question remains: Will the attorney general allow investigators to take the necessary steps, or will he continue to restrict their range of action?
Since entering the job in January, Mendelblit has had to deal with many cases regarding central figures with whom he worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as cabinet secretary. This happened with the examination of Netanyahu, and with the investigation of Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow, who is suspected of making a fictitious sale of a private company for $3 million and operating it while holding his government job.
Haaretz has learned that while Mendelblit chose to deal himself with the cases of Netanyahu, Harow and others, he recused himself from dealing directly or indirectly with anything regarding Gil Sheffer, Harow’s predecessor as bureau chief.
“The prosecution’s recommendation regarding the Prime Minister’s Residence case has not yet been given to the attorney general, and in any event the attorney general is not yet required to rule on it,” the Justice Ministry spokesman said in response. “In the meantime, the attorney general informed the government and the investigative team that in light of his acquaintance with [Sheffer], he will not be involved in making decisions in the concrete matter of Mr. Sheffer.”
A spokesperson for the prime minister said in response: “It’s all idle chatter. Since Netanyahu’s victory in the last election and well before that, forces hostile to the prime minister have made enormous efforts to topple him, hurling false accusations against him and against his family. It is all lies. There never was nor will there ever be anything.”