Israeli police grill Netanyahu for a third time


Israeli police on Friday grilled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence in a third round of questioning over corruption suspicions, local media said.

Public radio said at midday (1000 GMT) that questioning was in its third hour and expected to focus on suspicions of unlawfully receiving gifts from a wealthy supporter and over an alleged bid to strike a deal with an Israeli press baron.

“Netanyahu is expected to be questioned for a fourth time in the middle of next week,” it added.

The police spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Media reports say police suspect that over several years Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, a longtime friend of Netanyahu, sent him boxes of expensive cigars with a value of tens of thousands of dollars.

Milchan also allegedly gave Netanyahu’s wife Sara pink champagne priced at about $100 a bottle.

“It is permissible to accept gifts from friends,” the prime minister said on Wednesday in answer to questions in parliament. “No crime was committed.”

Also being probed is a suspicion that the premier sought a secret deal with Arnon Moses, publisher of Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

The discussed deal, which is not believed to have been finalised, would have seen Netanyahu receive positive coverage in return for helping curb Yediot’s competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu says he has committed no offence and was the target of a campaign by political opponents.

“Hypocrisy is running rampant and the clear aim is to bring down the Likud government with me at its head and to that end all means are legitimate,” Netanyahu told the lawmakers.

Netanyahu’s Likud party heads a coalition government seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history.

“You don’t replace prime ministers by means of investigations,” said a defiant Netanyahu. “I’ve got news for you: I shall continue to lead the State of Israel for many years.”

Police are also looking into two other cases, Israel’s Channel 10 television reported earlier this week.

One appears to involve a deal for Israel to purchase German submarines, while the second affair remains unclear, according to the reports.

Police declined to comment on the report.

Netanyahu’s cousin and family lawyer was reportedly involved in the deal to purchase Dolphin submarines from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp.

Media reports have alleged a conflict of interest over the role played by Shimron, who has also represented ThyssenKrupp’s Israeli agent.