(photo credit: ODD ANDERSEN / AFP)
Police may question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as soon as this week, media reported Saturday amid reports that World Jewish Congress President and long-time ally Ronald Lauder was recently questioned by police.
The dramatic announcement was the first glimpse of concrete details in any of the steady drumbeat of vague reports about preliminary probes into several allegations regarding the prime minister.
The latest reports said that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, in an unprecedented move, would make no announcement about moving from a preliminary probe to a criminal investigation until after the police had already questioned Netanyahu under caution.
Typically, the attorney-general makes a public announcement of such a shift, and only afterward would the police question the suspect.
In spite of the latest more specific reports, the Justice Ministry is maintaining a complete blackout, as if nothing extraordinary were happening or is about to happen, refusing to comment.
Channel 2 reported on Friday that Mandelblit discussed the impending investigation with the prime minister as early as December 12. There were no other specifics about the allegations, the dates or others involved, other than members of the Netanyahu family might also be questioned.
Netanyahu responded to the reports by saying that his opponents – thrilled to hear that an investigation has been opened – should “try to replace the prime minister at the ballot box, as is customary practice in a democracy.”
Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page Saturday night that he did not see the same type of “joy” in the studios of Channel 2 and Channel 10 when they announced that criminal investigations were opened against Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On or Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, who he noted evoked his right to remain silent in the investigation into NGOs connected to former prime minister Ehud Barak.
“Unfortunately, you will need to be disappointed this time as well, as you were disappointed by previous fabricated affairs,” Netanyahu wrote. “As usual, there will not be anything, because there is nothing.”
Netanyahu noted that he sent this same reaction to Channels 2 and 10 on Friday night when they reported on the investigation, but they decided to “edit and censor it.
Remember that the next time they preach about freedom of expression and pluralism.”
On Friday, Netanyahu posted on Facebook a response to the investigation that Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi gave to Army Radio, saying that the relentless push for investigations against the prime minister is politically motivated.
“I am outraged that there is an organized, planned, political pressure campaign here that has one goal – forcing the attorney-general at any price to open more and more investigations,” Hanegbi said.
“There is a legal war of attrition taking place,” he charged.
“The attorney-general is receiving defamatory statements from everywhere, in an effort to force him to give in and open another investigation so that perhaps the accumulation [of investigations] will topple the elected prime minister. I believe the prime minister will come out of this one as well, stronger than ever.”
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