Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be questioned by investigators on Friday for a third time, as police move ahead with a number of investigations surrounding graft and corruption suspicions against him. Netanyahu, taking to social media on Thursday, said the whole affair was essentially an “attempt at a coup.”
The interrogation session with detectives from the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit will revolve around two criminal cases: Netanyahu and his family’s dealings with billionaire benefactors, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — known as Case 1000; and his negotiations for a suspected quid pro quo deal with a top Israeli publisher, known as Case 2000.
Police for the sixth time on Thursday questioned Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes, with whom Netanyahu held recorded conversations on advancing legislation that would reduce the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily’s circulation in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Channel 10 reported Wednesday that police were likely to recommend indicting Netanyahu over the gifts he received from Milchan, with the case being in the most advanced stage of the multiple investigations into him. The report indicated the investigation will likely be concluded in the coming weeks.
Israel Radio reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is leaning toward a charge of breach of trust in the case, but not bribery.
There has been no formal confirmation of plans for indictments. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
Netanyahu has been largely defiant in the face of the investigations, of which there are two more: In Case 3000 — the so-called submarine affair — Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of swaying multi-billion shekel deals in favor of German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp, which he represented in Israel. Police are considering investigating Netanyahu as a criminal suspect.
There are no known details of yet another affair, Case 4000.
On Thursday, Netanyahu took to Facebook to complain of the “pressure inflicted by the media and [some] politicians on the attorney general and law enforcement to file an indictment at any cost against the prime minister.
“This is an attempt to carry out a coup, in a non-democratic way,” he wrote.
A day earlier, Netanyahu lambasted the two criminal investigations against him, contending that he had done nothing wrong and would not step down should the allegations lead to further legal action.
Slamming opposition lawmakers in a stormy Knesset Q&A session punctuated by shouts and heckling, Netanyahu said the investigations had been accompanied by a “celebration of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.”
Netanyahu noted that he was “not the first” political leader to have meetings with media publishers, and not the first “to have wealthy friends.”
He declined a number of questions on whether he will resign if indicted in one of the two criminal investigations currently opened against him, and on whether gifts he received from businessman Milchan or his relationship with lawyer Shimron constituted conflicts of interest.
Instead, once the formal questioning was finished, he launched into a diatribe against the allegations, the MKs who called him to resign, and the media.
“Well, I will tell you this,” Netanyahu concluded emphatically. “There was no crime and we don’t replace a prime minster through non-democratic means… I will continue to lead the State of Israel for many years, on behalf of the citizens of Israel, the State of Israel and the Jewish people, so you’d better get used to it.”
The probes have fueled speculation that, should Netanyahu be indicted, his governing coalition could collapse and force new elections.
But Justice Minister Ayalet Shaked, from the Jewish Home party, noted that a replacement for Netanyahu could be found within the coalition. In an interview with Army Radio, Shaked said it was “not possible that the country be shaken every couple of years by national elections.”
In the case of an indictment of the prime minister, “the coalition is strong,” she said, indicating there were discussions within the government on an alternative to Netanyahu if necessary.