Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to be questioned by police later today for the fifth time in relation to several corruption scandals embroiling him and his close associates, according to Ynet News.
Interrogators from the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit will question Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence. It will be his first interrogation since March and his fifth session since he was named a suspect in Case 1000 and Case 2000 late last year.
Case 1000 involves allegations that the prime minister and his wife accepted illegal gifts from prominent Israeli businessmen, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Netanyahu denies the suspicion that the gifts were bribes, insisting that the goods were just gifts between close friends.
Earlier this week, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was summoned by the police to testify in regards to the case. Dermer reportedly confirmed that at the direction of Netanyahu, he then requested US Secretary of State John Kerry obtain a US visa for Milchan.
Case 2000 accuses Netanyahu of attempting to buy favourable newspaper coverage with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth. It is alleged that Netanyahu tried to negotiate a deal with Mozes, offering legislation that would impede the activities of Mozes’ rival paper, Israel Hayom, in return for more favourable media coverage of the prime minister and his policies.
Police further suspect that in return for curbing Israel Hayom, Mozes offered to hire journalists recommended by Netanyahu to undermine rival politicians.
Netanyahu is also expected to be questioned again today in relation to Case 3000, also known as the “submarine scandal”, albeit not as a suspect. He has previously also been interrogated in regards to Case 4000, in which a close associate of Netanyahu is suspected of providing confidential information to Israel’s largest telecoms company.
In response to the allegations, Netanyahu’s Likud party announced last month that they would propose a new bill to give immunity to Knesset members from any corruption investigations. However, the bill has divided Israeli politicians, stalling its progression through parliament.
Although this would-be law will not protect the current prime minister, observers and opposition members expect Netanyahu to call for early elections hoping to take up office for another term in an effort to evade the wave of corruption allegations surrounding him.
Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to face criminal investigation; former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014, serving 16 months of a 27-month term, and Ariel Sharon was questioned while in office over allegations of bribery and campaign financing illegalities.
Israel frequently refers to itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East”, but this remains highly debateable as corruption scandals threaten to embroil the highest political authority in the country.