Tel Aviv – Israeli police began questioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in corruption cases over suspicions he accepted valuable gifts from businessmen in breach of his role as a public servant.
Likud Member of Knesset David Amsalem announced plans to propose Knesset legislation that would give immunity from certain types of police investigations and criminal prosecution to Israel’s sitting prime minister.
Amsalem said that the situation was getting out of hand. “In recent years there were several instances of prime ministers who were completely consumed by the investigations against them, even regarding things that happened long before they took office.”
In such situations, Amsalem said the leadership capabilities of the prime minister are affected, since it is natural that his first priority will be to keep themselves out of prison and thereby not serving the country.
“To avoid this, we suggest not opening up criminal investigations against sitting prime ministers. There is plenty of time afterwards to prosecute,” added the MK, stressing that the PM can’t work in this way.
Amsalem went on to say: “To get rid of a prime minister you must use the ballot box, not police investigations. Netanyahu is subject to investigation of every little thing, including ‘issues’ based on gossip. This has been going on for 20 years now.”
Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan noted that the interrogation appears to be “a clear attempt to unseat” PM Netanyahu, saying the whole party believes in Netanyahu and hopes he will remain prime minister for many more years.
Netanyahu faces two charges, the first is expected, while the second is said to be more serious.
Reports speculated that the questioning will focus on suspicions that he and his family received gifts and “favors” from businessmen in Israel and abroad worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, dollar is worth four shekels. Netanyahu is also the central suspect in a second criminal investigation expected next week.
Observers expect the PM to deny all allegations and claim they were sent to him from friends, given that he personally knows many of those businessmen and it is not a sin to take gifts from friends.
But the circumstances of the story, which has been going on for years and long into his terms as prime minister, could make it difficult for Netanyahu and his lawyers to explain the situations.
It is true that giving of gifts between friends is normal and accepted, one might say, but it’s unlikely that Netanyahu was able to demonstrate in front of his interrogators that he reciprocated the gifts. He did not buy any gifts worth thousands of Shekels for his acquaintances.
Additionally, at least a number of the instances in which he received gifts appear to suggest the abuse of his high national office.
According to the evidence being collected, Netanyahu was not passive when receiving the valuable gifts. At times, he would demand certain requests and was picky in what he wanted.
However, the second case against Netanyahu is more mysterious and is said to be far larger and will expose a new side of the prime minister’s complex character.
Sources linked to the case described it as “earth-shattering.”