Justice officials reject Netanyahu claims that probes were mishandled
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Justice officials reject Netanyahu claims that probes were mishandled

Police source reportedly says confronting state’s witnesses would have been irrelevant in these cases, as they don’t involve just a single incident

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Police investigators arrive at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pair of corruption investigations, on November 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police investigators arrive at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pair of corruption investigations, on November 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Justice Ministry and police rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims Monday that corruption probes against him were not carried out properly.

Netanyahu said during a live televised statement that he had sought to confront state’s witnesses in a series of graft probes into his dealings and was refused during his interrogation, accusing justice officials of trying to hide the truth.

A Justice Ministry spokesperson said in a statement that the investigations were “conducted professionally and thoroughly.”

“It is inappropriate for law enforcement authorities to relate to the investigative activities and the testimonies in the media, certainly not at this stage,” the ministry statement added, in reference to Netanyahu’s assertion that certain key witnesses were not interviewed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement live at the Prime Minister’s Residence, in Jerusalem, on January 7, 2019. (LIKUD / AFP)

A senior police official said Netanyahu’s demand to confront his witnesses, a police tactic sometimes used in criminal investigations, was not relevant to these probes.

“A confrontation would not have advanced the investigation. We are talking about events that took place over years,” the official told the Ynet news website.

The headquarters of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit in Lod. (Flash90)

The police source said the evidence and paper trail were strong enough that trying to undermine a witness’s testimony would not have changed the probe.

“We are not talking about a specific incident at a given time, in a given place, or something similar to someone’s word versus somebody else’s word. A confrontation would not have changed the general picture in this case,” the source said, according to the report.

Beginning in 2016, police have opened three separate investigations into the long-serving Israeli leader, who first came to power in 1996. The first, dubbed Case 1000, involves accusations that illicit gifts were given to the Netanyahus by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves conversations Netanyahu had with the publisher of a leading newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, allegedly to gain more positive coverage in Yedioth in return for legislation that would restrict Yedioth’s largest competitor, Israel Hayom. However, no such legislation was ever passed.

The fourth investigation, Case 4000, alleges that in his capacity as communications minister, Netanyahu or those under him traded favors with the national communications company Bezeq, in return for favorable coverage in its online news subsidiary, Walla News.

Netanyahu has dismissed the suspicions and has claimed that police, justice officials and media have engineered a “witch hunt” against him to oust him from power.

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