Israel Police investigators officially began interrogating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem on Monday on suspicion of receiving gifts from businessmen in breach of his role as a public servant, Israeli media said.
Netanyahu told his ruling Likud faction in parliament that those hoping for his downfall would have to “wait with the celebrations, don’t rush. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again: there will be nothing because there is nothing.”
The move was authorized by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who decided after a preliminary inquiry that there was enough evidence to open a criminal investigation, Haaretz newspaper reported.
Israeli media said the questioning by senior police investigators began on Monday evening was expected last several hours and would almost certainly be followed by more interrogation.
Photographers were camped outside the heavily guarded residence, hoping to get pictures of investigators arriving. Black screens were erected inside the gates of the property to block the view.
Haaretz and other newspapers said the probe related to gifts worth “hundreds of thousands of shekels” ($1=3.85 shekels) given to Netanyahu by Israeli and foreign businessmen.
Netanyahu, 67, has been in power on and off since 1996. He is currently in his fourth term as prime minister and will become Israel’s longest-serving leader if he stays in office until the end of next year.
Netanyahu is not the first prime minister to be questioned in a criminal case. Israeli commentators pointed out that while Netanyahu may be questioned, it has happened many times in the past and prime ministers have gone on governing, sometimes for years.