A car enters the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday, where Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned for more than four hours by police.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned for more than four hours by Lahav 433 National Crime Unit interrogators at his official residence in Jerusalem on Sunday.
The questioning focused mainly on Case 1000, the “gifts affair,” in which it is suspected that the prime minster received expensive gifts from various businessmen.
Police are investigating whether he gave them anything in return.
It was the sixth round of questioning for Netanyahu, who also is being probed in Case 2000, which involves possible influence-peddling directed toward the publisher of Yediot Aharonot
The questioning came just 10 days after the last round of interrogations
, as authorities attempt to “speed up the pace” of the investigation. For comparison, eight months passed between Netanyahu’s fourth and fifth interrogations.
As he did after the last questioning session, Netanyahu took to Twitter, writing on Sunday night: “Also tonight I am absolutely certain – there will be nothing, because there was nothing!” Following the last session earlier this month, police reportedly complained that they didn’t have enough time and that this round of questioning was meant to complete it.
In August, it was revealed that Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
International movie mogul Arnon Milchan
, who was questioned in London in September, is a central figure in Case 1000. Milchan reportedly gave large quantities of cigars and champagne to the prime minister and his wife, Sara.
Recently, the testimonies of Milchan’s personal assistant and driver were revealed. According to media reports, Hadas Klein, the assistant, confirmed that there were massive supplies of champagne and cigars, but stated that she didn’t know what Milchan got in return, or if he received anything at all.
Channel 10 News reported on Sunday that Sara Netanyahu in her testimony rejected claims by Klein that she demanded these “supplies.”
Sara Netanyahu said she held conversations with Klein after she spoke with Milchan about how the gifts – that he wanted to give – would be delivered.
“I did not initiate anything,” she was quoted as saying. “Milchan told me he wanted to give us bottles of wine. The quantities that people claim we were given are baseless.”
Police are reportedly trying to determine whether the prime minister used his power for the benefit of the producer.
Netanyahu has acknowledged accepting gifts from Milchan, but maintains they were exchanged between friends and did not constitute bribery or breach of trust. He has denied any wrongdoing.
“It is allowed – according to the law – to receive gifts from friends,” he told the Knesset in January.
“Arnon Milchan and I have been friends for over 20 years. We are good friends, our wives are good friends,” he said.
On Thursday, Channel 2 News showed photos, which Netanyahu allegedly submitted to the police, of himself and his family together with the Milchan family to prove their friendship. However, police officials were quoted as saying this was irrelevant if something was done or given in return.
The police are reportedly looking into several instances in which Netanyahu might have done something to benefit Milchan.
The first is an initiative nine years ago to establish a free-trade zone near the Jordanian border. It is suspected that Milchan asked Netanyahu to promote the project following a consultation with Indian billionaire Ratan Tata, whom Israeli police recently questioned. The initiative never came to fruition.
The second involves Netanyahu helping Milchan secure a US visa and whether doing so had anything to do with the gifts received.
Following the last session of questioning, Netanyahu was reported to have answered: “There is no connection between the two. My relationship with Milchan goes way back. He is a long-time friend of mine. I tried helping him because of his contribution to the State of Israel, just like I helped many others.”
Another key figure in the investigation is the prime minister’s former chief of staff Ari Harow, who became a state’s witness in August.
Harow was considered Netanyahu’s confidant and, according to reports, his testimony helped shed light on Cases 1000 and 2000. It was reported that in both Sunday’s and the previous questioning, Netanyahu was confronted with information provided by Harow.
It remains unclear how many rounds of questioning it will take to finalize the case, and when a recommendation will come from police to either close it or for the attorney- general to indict Netanyahu.