Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Knesset cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Police do not yet have enough evidence to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under caution regarding the latest allegations against him, Channel 10 news reported Monday night.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit late Sunday night confirmed that he had ordered an initial probe of Netanyahu as part of a wider unspecified probe.
Based on a Channel 10 report, reports over the last week and non-denials from officials, it appears that the crux of the issue is whether lieutenants and former lieutenants of Netanyahu who are also under investigation can be turned into state’s witnesses against him, like Shula Zaken turned against her former boss, prime minister Ehud Olmert.
If one of them turns, the entire dynamic of the probe may change.
But without a state’s witness there may not be enough of a breakthrough to continue past an initial review to criminally questioning the prime minister.
Mandelblit said Sunday that he made his dramatic decision after reviewing evidence from the police intelligence unit along with State Attorney Shai Nitzan, and though his statement tried to underplay it, the prime minister’s rivals have said it could be the beginning of his downfall after dodging several past probes.
Earlier Sunday night, Channel 10 reported that Mandelblit and Nitzan were meeting to make decisions about an initial review of alleged money-laundering by Netanyahu.
Meretz leader Zehava Galon on Monday called upon Mandelblit to reveal the details of the suspicions against Netanyahu so the public will know what crimes he is suspected of.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin responded that even the prime minister is innocent until proven guilty.
Allegations of a new major probe against Netanyahu, separate from the “Bibi Tours” and other previously known affairs have been swirling around for several days, but little or no specifics have been confirmed to date.
Mandelblit’s Sunday statement slammed the media for misreporting the allegations, but did not give any hints as to what the correct allegations are.
Bizarrely, Mandelblit’s statement only confirmed an initial probe and denied that a criminal investigation is in place.
The characterization was bizarre since it has been clear for some time that there was an initial review underway, and the next decision point would be to open a full criminal investigation.
In practical terms, now that the probe is confirmed it will function like a criminal investigation, although Netanyahu and others, if questioned, will not be questioned under caution.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report