Police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the fifth time on Thursday over his involvement in corruption cases 1000 and 2000.In Case 1000, the “gifts affair,” it is suspected that Netanyahu accepted expensive gifts from different businessmen.Police are reportedly checking whether the businessmen were receiving, or intending to receive, anything in return for these gifts.In Case 2000, the “Israel Hayom affair,” Netanyahu allegedly negotiated with publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes for favorable coverage of himself in Yediot Aharonot in exchange for Mozes’s support of a bill to weaken Israel Hayom, the largest circulation Hebrew-language paper and Yediot’s biggest competitor.In August it was revealed that Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Avraham Gold contributed to this report.
After the questioning Netanyahu said in his Twitter account: “I hereby repeat and tell tonight you with full confidence: There will be nothing – because there was nothing!” Since Netanyahu was last questioned in March, police have made two significant moves.In August, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, became a state’s witness.Harow was considered Netanyahu’s confidant and, according to reports, his testimony helped shed light on cases 1000 and 2000. It was reported that the interrogators confronted the prime minister with Harow’s testimony in Thursday’s questioning.The Lahav 433 unit questioned the premier at his official residence in Jerusalem for four hours.The second major event was the September questioning under caution of international movie mogul Arnon Milchan in London.Milchan testified multiple times during the investigation and confirmed the fact that he delivered gifts to the Netanyahus over the years.Reports said at the time that senior police officials thought it would be difficult to assess Netanyahu’s bribery indictment while the person giving the bribe was not a suspect.Netanyahu has not denied accepting gifts from Milchan but maintained that the gifts were presents exchanged between friends and do not constitute bribery or a breach of trust. The prime minister denied any wrongdoing in the incident.“It is allowed – according to the law – to receive gifts from friends... Arnon Milchan and I are friends for over 20 years. We are good friends, our wives are good friends,” he said at the Knesset in January.Media reports say that there are three possibilities of how Milchan might have benefited from Netanyahu’s alleged assistance: by receiving a US visa, by advancing a free-trade zone adjacent to the Jordanian border or by buying shares of Channel 10.Another development in the case is the testimony given by billionaire Israel Hayom publisher Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, in June. It was reported by Channel 10 News that this testimony had significant economic implications that could shed light on Netanyahu’s intentions.According to Channel 2 News, police intend to question Netanyahu at least three more time before it closes the case and announces whether it recommends to indict the prime minister or not.Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan will receive the transcripts of the questioning in the coming days and will make a decision regarding the future of the investigation.This latest news follows the questioning on Tuesday of Ron Dermer, the ambassador to the US, in relation to Case 1000. Dermer was questioned for intervening on behalf of Netanyahu and requesting a visa for Milchan from former secretary of state John Kerry.Earlier this week two of Netanyahu’s closest advisers were questioned in a third case, Case 3000, the “submarines affair.”Attorneys David Shimron and Yizhak Molcho were questioned for four consecutive days regarding their part in the purchasing of submarines and naval vessels from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp.It was reported by Channel 10 News that the police are checking whether Molcho was mediating between the German company and Israel following a request by ThyssenKrupp that, as a condition to the deal, it be allowed to build a wastewater treatment facility in Gaza, a move to which Israel objected.However, police are reportedly still assessing whether to question Netanyahu – who is not a suspect in Case 3000 – over his part in this investigation.
Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017
Avraham Gold contributed to this report.