Police to Question Netanyahu Over Alleged Gifts

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
A security guard walks at the entrance to the prime minister’s residence in Yerushalayim on Monday. Black screens were erected to block the view. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police are expected to question Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Yerushalayim on Monday on suspicion of receiving gifts from businessmen in breach of his role as a public servant.

The move was authorized by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who decided after a preliminary probe that there was sufficient evidence for a criminal investigation, Haaretz newspaper reported. The questioning will take place on Monday evening, Israel Radio said.

The police and Justice Ministry would not confirm when the interview would take place or the nature of the investigation, details of which have appeared in the media in recent days. Netanyahu’s office has denied any wrongdoing.

“All the supposed affairs will turn out to be fiction,” his family spokesman said on Monday. “We are repeating: There will be nothing, because there is nothing.”

Photographers were camped outside the heavily guarded residence, hoping to get pictures of investigators arriving. Black screens were erected inside the gates of the property to block the view.

Haaretz and other newspapers said the probe related to gifts worth “hundreds of thousands of shekels” given to Netanyahu by Israeli and foreign businessmen.

Channel 2 said that the investigation was one of two cases now open against the prime minister, although it said details of the second remained unclear.

Netanyahu is not the first prime minister to be questioned in a criminal case.

Ehud Olmert, who held office from 2006 to 2009, is currently serving 18 months in prison after being convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon was questioned while in office in 2003 and 2004 over allegations of bribery and corruption involving him and his two sons. In 2006, his son Omri was convicted of corruption and served time in prison.

Netanyahu’s police appointment drew a barrage of commentary from the opposition MKs, with politicians calling for him to go.

Ahead of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu responded, saying, “I suggest the opposition calm down.”

Israeli commentators pointed out that while Netanyahu may be questioned, it has happened many times in the past and prime ministers have gone on governing, sometimes for years.