Police May Question Netanyahu Over Graft Suspicions on Monday

A Likud lawmaker blasts police for 'political persecution' of the prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 1, 2017.
Gali Tibbon, AP

Israel Police are expected to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next three days over suspicions that he and his family received gifts and other benefits worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen.

Both Channel 2 and Channel 10 television reported Sunday night that the interrogation is expected to take place Monday at the prime minister’s residence. Channel 2 added that no time limit has been set.

For days, police had been trying without success to coordinate a time to question Netanyahu with the prime minister’s bureau. On Sunday, however, both sides finally agreed that it would happen this week.

The interrogation will focus on the less serious of two cases involving Netanyahu that police are currently looking into – suspicions that he and his family received gifts and other benefits worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen. As Haaretz previously reported, police have deposed witnesses abroad as well as in Israel. One witness whose deposition led to a breakthrough in the case was Jewish American businessman Ron Lauder, a longtime friend of Netanyahu’s.

Police are hoping their interrogation of Netanyahu will also shed additional light on the second case, which deals with more serious suspicions against the prime minister, according to sources privy to the investigation. Details of that case were first presented to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit a few months ago.

Netanyahu has strongly denied all allegations. “All previous so-called affairs have proved baseless and so it will be with the allegations now published in the media,” the prime minister said on Friday. “They won’t come to anything, because there isn’t anything.”

Knesset Member David Amsalem, chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, lashed out at the police’s investigations and intelligence department in a Facebook post on Sunday, accusing it of political persecution of the prime minister.

 “The police’s conduct is different when it comes to investigations of the prime minister,” wrote the MK, whose committee is responsible for overseeing the police. “With regard to ordinary people, the police lack motivation. I assume that if Netanyahu weren’t prime minister, they wouldn’t summon his son to check if he’d been invited to some hotel or another. 

 “There’s an entire enormous army here that’s trying to replace the prime minister,” he continued. “In my opinion, there’s also funding from abroad. They’re doing everything possible in order to oust Netanyahu and put the left-wing agenda into power. 

 “The situation we’re witnessing is unbelievable. You replace a prime minister at the polls, not via Meni Yitzhaki,” Amsalem concluded, referring to the head of the investigations department.