Israeli Police Question Netanyahu for Third Time in Corruption Probe

Israeli Police Question Netanyahu for Third Time in Corruption Probe

Tuesday, 12 June, 2018 - 09:30
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli police interrogated on Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the third time over corruption charges linked to the country’s largest telecommunication company.

Police declined immediate comment, but Israel Radio said Netanyahu was being questioned over allegations he awarded regulatory favors to Bezeq Telecom Israel in return for favorable coverage on a news site the company’s owner controls.

Netanyahu, who has been questioned twice before in the so-called Case 4000, and Bezeq have denied wrongdoing.

A vehicle carrying police officers pulled up at the entrance of the prime minister's official residence, where a clutch of protesters called for Netanyahu to resign over the investigations.

In February, police recommended Netanyahu be charged with bribery in two other cases. Israel's attorney general is still weighing whether to indict him.

Two Netanyahu confidants have been arrested on suspicion of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq. In return, Bezeq's subsidiary news site, Walla, allegedly provided positive Netanyahu coverage.

The confidants have turned state witnesses.

In the first investigation, known as Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of bribery over gifts from wealthy businessmen, which police say were worth nearly $300,000.

The other, Case 2000, involves an alleged plot to win positive coverage in Israel’s biggest newspaper by offering to take measures to curtail the circulation of a rival daily.

In both those cases, lawyers for Netanyahu said he has committed no crimes.

The premier has dismissed the accusations as a media witch hunt.

Despite the probes, the right-wing leader's popularity has risen in the past few weeks, a reflection, commentators said, of his tough security policies, US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal he opposes, and the opening of the American Embassy in contested Jerusalem, a move Netanyahu has long advocated.

The surveys predicted that Netanyahu's Likud party, which heads a coalition largely comprised of right-wing and religious factions, would add up to four seats to the 30 it already holds in the 120-member parliament if an election were held now.

Israel is due to hold its next national ballot no later than November 2019.

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