A team of investigators arrived at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Monday evening to question him over suspicion of bribery.
Speaking earlier in the day, Netanyahu told the media and opposition to “hold off on the partying” ahead of his police questioning later in the day.
“We notice reports in the media, ” Netanyahu said during a Likud faction meeting. “We hear the celebrations and sense the way the wind blows in TV studios and in the halls of the opposition—hold off on the partying, don’t jump the gun. I told you and I repeat: Nothing will happen, because there is nothing. You will continue making wild allegations and we will continue leading the State of Israel.”
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, however, did not see any reason to celebrate. “This isn’t a happy day. This is a hard day for the State of Israel, ” he said during his own faction meeting.
“We are not gloating, ” he added. “I’d say the most basic thing in moments like this is to understand that there is a rule of law in this country. We must put our trust in law enforcement authorities and allow them to complete the investigation without fear or interference. Particularly, we must stop with stupid and unnecessary bills that seek to distort the fact that legislation is based on decisions made by the attorney general and on an independent and unbiased system.”
The prime minister’s questioning, scheduled for Monday evening at Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, was the talk of town at the Knesset on Monday.
“A person under investigation is a person under pressure, ” Yesh Atid leader MK Lapid said. “That’s normal and understandable.”
“But the prime minister needs to be focused on other things, not on proving his innocence, ” Lapid continued. “I call upon all those involved from the Office of the Prime Minister to the Office of the Attorney General: let’s finish this without any foot-dragging. Clear all the time that is needed, clear the schedule if you need to, and give the police the ability to get to the truth as quickly as possible.”
He went on to say that “If two prime ministers in a row (Olmert and Netanyahu) fall from office because of corruption, it will be very hard to rehabilitate the public’s trust in its leadership. I want to remind the members of the opposition and the media that the presumption of innocent applies to every Israeli, including the prime minister. We need to let the police do their work.
“With that in mind, for the good of the country and the people, it needs to be done quickly. We can’t allow what happened with Olmert’s investigation to happen again. We can’t sink into months of investigations. It can’t be that instead of sitting with the Mossad, the Shin Bet, the IDF chief of staff and the finance minister, the prime minister will spend his time with lawyers preparing for the investigation and then with the police while he is being questioned.”
Coalition partner Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) asserted that “the prime minister should not resign because an investigation was launched. An investigation can end with nothing coming out of it. There is great importance in the stability of governments in the State of Israel. It’s important that governments last for the full four years. It takes us time to be effective, and this is a good national government.”
The Attorney General’s Office has already prepared a statement that is to be publicized immediately upon the conclusion of the questioning with a detailed explanation regarding the suspicions against Netanyahu.
“Everything is already ready and coordinated, ” said an official acquainted with the details. “The two sides are prepared for the other and this will be a battle of wits.”
At present, the investigation is expected to focus on the supposed elicit benefits awarded to Netanyahu and members of his family. Those involved in it, though, said that the investigation’s focus could change if it turns out that Netanyahu reciprocated these benefits in some way.
The investigation’s plan of action details exactly how Netanyahu will be handled: while he is investigated in one room, an entire team of investigators from the Police’s Lahav 443 Special Investigations Unit will be set up in a war room at a separate location, receiving online updates as to the investigation’s developments, which will allow them to update their questions and methods of interrogation accordingly in real time.
The police is planning on conducting a meeting to evaluate where it stands once the investigation is concluded. The meeting is due to include Head of the Police Investigations and Intelligence Department Meni Itzhaki and Lahav 443 Commander Roni Ritman.
According to estimates, Netanyahu’s investigation will last about four hours. Netanyahu’s eldest son, Yair might also be called in for questioning.
By Ynet News