Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly recorded negotiating on the phone with a businessman on mutual benefits, according to a report in Haaretz on Sunday morning.
The recording, which was obtained by the police, establishes the suspicions against the prime minister, Haaretz reports.
The paper quotes a close associate who spoke to Netanyahu after he was questioned for the second time on Thursday and said the prime minister was surprised by the evidence against him.
Netanyahu was questioned twice last week by the Israel Police on two separate issues. The central line of inquiry has not yet been made public, but the secondary one features Hollywood businessman Arnon Milchan prominently.
Channel 10 reported on Saturday evening that Netanyahu spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry three times in 2014 to ask him to sort out a problem with Milchan’s work visa. According to Channel 10, the visa issue was indeed handled.
Netanyahu is under investigation for, inter alia, accepting illicit gifts from the Hollywood mogul. Channel 2 journalist Amnon Abramovitch reported on Thursday that Netanyahu has received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of cigars and pink champagne from the businessman.
Abramovitch stated that Milchan had been providing the cigars to Netanyahu for 7 to 8 years, though those close to the prime minister claim that the gifts were not intended as bribes.
On Friday, Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yaakov Weinroth, spoke to the press, insisting there is no substance to allegations the prime minister improperly accepted gifts.
Weinroth added that there is “no scrap of crime” in someone giving his friend cigars as a gift. He explained that he was unable to directly address the content of the questioning, as it constitutes part of an ongoing police investigation.
Opposition MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) commented on the investigation at a cultural event in Tel Aviv on Saturday that the prime minister will soon have to suspend himself from his duties. “This is abhorrent corruption, ” she said.
Referring to Netanyahu’s predecessor in the premiership, the parliamentarian continued, “Netanyahu had a ‘sugar daddy’ who regularly provided him with valuable perks, just like the Talansky envelopes in the Olmert affair.” Ehud Olmert was sentenced to eight months in prison last year for accepting cash bribes in envelopes from businessman Moshe Talansky.
Yachimovich added on her Facebook page that the ruling in Olmert’s case stated that in determining if a bribe had taken place, “the court wanted to clearly now whether money or something worth money exchanged hands. It did. Olmert’s in prison.”
By Ynet News