Netanyahu to be questioned again on Friday

Earlier, the PM said: "Long years of persecution turned out to be nothing."

January 3, 2017 20:54
3 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted publicly to his investigation by the police on Monday with a Tuesday tweet saying that “long years of daily persecution against me and my family turned out yesterday to be nothing.”

This comes as Netanyahu will reportedly be questioned under caution for a second time – with no time limit – on Friday morning in connection with the ongoing graft investigation.

Netanyahu was questioned Monday night for more than three hours by the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit at his residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. He is suspected of receiving improper gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen in a manner that breached his duty of trust as a public servant.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated the mantra he has been saying for months about the investigations: “There will be nothing, because there is nothing.”

On Channel 2 Tuesday night, Netanyahu attorney Yaakov Weinroth said the prime minister could be “very relaxed” in the face of the criminal investigation. The report also said that Netanyahu’s associates understood there were more serious allegations awaiting the prime minister, although they contended that any gifts he received had been negligible and given in friendship.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit issued a statement late Monday night on the alleged graft charges, confirming that the probe into Netanyahu’s dealings had become a full-fledged criminal investigation and that the prime minister had been accused of ethics breaches. However, Mandelblit’s statement was vague and short on details.

His office confirmed that it had ordered a preliminary review in July of a variety of allegations.

Mandelblit noted that his office looked into and dismissed allegations in four areas: that Netanyahu ran an unreported, illegally financed shadow campaign in the 2009 general election; that he rigged the Likud primary results in 2009; that he received gifts and benefits from wealthy people while overseas; and that he double- dipped in payments for flights overseas.

Netanyahu referred to these allegations in a tweet on Tuesday: “Bibi Tours – nothing! Claims of falsifying primary results – nothing! Claim of illegally funding elections – nothing! Claims of receiving benefits abroad and payment for flights – nothing!” On Monday, the prime minister showed confidence that the investigation into graft allegations would lead nowhere.

“I see the spirit of celebration in the television studios,” he said at a Likud faction meeting. “Wait with the celebrations; don’t hurry.”

There is allegedly a second, more serious case against Netanyahu, the details of which remain unknown. Channel 2 has alluded to the possibility of the more severe charge being related to an attempt to receive a bribe, though such a charge is notoriously hard to prove because it means that no bribe was received.

Likud MKs have closed ranks around the prime minister, pronouncing his innocence, while Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said the Netanyahu was innocent until proven guilty. In the opposition, Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog said on Monday that he was “not happy for [Netanyahu’s] misfortune.” Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli quoted then-opposition leader Netanyahu, who said in 2008 that then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was in the middle of a corruption investigation, was acting “out of personal interest of political survival rather than the public interest.”

Meanwhile, Labor MK and aspiring party leader Erel Margalit insisted on Tuesday that his campaign to have Netanyahu investigated for fraud and conflicts of interest was a crucial part of the democratic process and not a political war by other means.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Margalit said that allegations raised regarding the involvement of Netanyahu’s associates in the acquisition of warships and submarines for the navy required an investigation into the prime minister himself.

“I am looking forward to challenging Netanyahu on a political basis, but when there are so many questions, the public deserves answers,” he said.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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