Police Suspect Four More Businesspeople Systematically Gifted Netanyahus

According to reports on Channel 10 and Channel 2, the interrogation of Yedioth Ahronoth publisher complicated things for the prime minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and his wife Sara attend the 2016 Genesis Prize in Jerusalem, June 23, 2016.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

The police suspect that at least four more businesspeople, in addition to Arnon Milchan, systematically provided gifts to the wife and son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara and Yair, Channel 10 News reported on Friday. According to the report, the businesspeople told the police that they gave the Netanyahus jewelry. The Netanyahus were asked about this in their interrogations.

According to senior police officers, the Prime Minister's Office is limiting the duration of Netanyahu's interrogations to three hours each, which allows him to consult with his lawyers between interrogations, having a deleterious effect on the investigation, Channel 2 reported. Netanyahu's third interrogation took place at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem on Friday.

The report also stated that Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes's long interrogations – two sessions lasting 10 hours each – are complicating things for the prime minister. Mozes told his investigators about the negotiation he held with Netanyahu starting in 2009 and ending in 2015,  in which, according to the police, the two discussed how Yedioth Ahronoth would temper its criticism of Netanyahu in return for the weakening of the newspapers main rival and free daily Israel Hayom, backed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

It was also revealed on Friday that the hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts given to the Netanyahus by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan were given over a long period of time. He further told police, according to reports, that the gifts started off out of friendship and continued in "a manner particular" to the Netanyahus. Milchan told investigators that the gifts were provided upon demand by the family, which asked from time to time to replenish the supply, as Gidi Weitz first reported in Haaretz. It was also reported that Milchan said that the Netanyahus told him that this practice was legal.

Milchan stressed that the gifts were given as part of a friendship between him and the Netanyahus, even if this may sound strange. He claimed that he had no expectations that he would receive a thing in return, adding that he had no business interests in Israel since the Channel 10 stocks he owns are held in a trust. Milchan confirmed that the gifts he gave were worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, but added that this sum was not significant for him. He said that the receipts were not kept as evidence but due to proper bookkeeping practices.

The Prime Minister's Office issued the following response to the report on Channel 2: "We are witnessing a flood of false and biased leaks to the press that are intended to slander the prime minister and his family, and to change the government without use of the ballot box. Contrary to the false leak which you broadcasted, there was never a steady supply of anything and there were no demand or requests on the part of the Netanyahu family. What did take place is mutual gift giving among friends and by the way, the duration of the interrogations was not set by the Prime Minister's Office but by the police alone."