Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be questioned by police for the fourth time regarding two pending investigations.
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One case involves the suspicion that he accepted benefits from rich businessmen, and the other is centered around his suspected attempt to arrange positive coverage by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth in exchange for a legislative amendment that would improve the news group’s financial situation at the expense of a pro-Netanyahu competitor.
The probe into favors allegedly received by Netanyahu, which the police have dubbed “Case 1000,” centers on billionaire Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer and one of the owners of Israel's Channel 10. Milchan testified that the Netanyahus would ask him to buy them cigars and pink champagne costing hundreds of thousands of shekels. Haaretz has learned that the police are now investigating other items the Netanyahus allegedly received from the businessman.
According to information obtained by Haaretz, Milchan gave Sara Netanyahu jewelry worth about 10,000 shekels ($2,700) as a birthday gift last year after she had requested the item. At first the businessman hesitated because of the object's high cost and the impression that could be created by buying it for the prime minister’s wife.
At this stage, Benjamin Netanyahu came into the picture: He reassured Milchan, saying he had looked into the matter and found no ethical problem with purchasing the jewelry for his wife. “In general, Milchan was told that there was no problem receiving gifts from him because the couple were armed with a legal opinion [on the matter],” an associate of Milchan’s told Haaretz.
The Netanyahus have meanwhile denied Milchan’s description of the incident and claim it was a routine birthday present between old friends. A source on behalf of the prime minister stated in response that “all the actions were done in meticulous observance of the law. Your incessant claims lack any factual or legal basis and are designed to create wrongful pressure on law enforcement authorities.”
According to a source close to Milchan, he told police that the demand to buy items for the Netanyahus made him “feel sick” on at least one occasion.
Last month, Chanel 2's Amnon Abramovich reported that Sara Netanyahu demanded and received a bracelet and necklace from Milchan worth over $8,600 in 2004. In that instance, too, the gift was allegedly given after the prime minister intervened. The statute of limitations on the 2004 incident has expired, but not on the new allegations.
The attorney general's decision on whether to indict Netanyahu is not expected before September. The two investigations into the prime minister are expected to wrap up in the coming months, after a number of judicial inquiries abroad will be completed.
The 1000 case is based on testimony by Milchan and his employees in Israel, who described a pattern of the Netanyahus' allegedly systematic demands of premium goods that was not typical of innocent mutual relations between friends. According to evidence collected in the case, the code words "pinks" and "leaves" were used by the Netanyahus as a signal to replenish their supply of pink champagne and fancy cigars.