Police question Netanyahu for five hours over corruption

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his wife Sara take part in a menorah lighting ceremony on the first candle night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem

Israeli police questioned Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife on Friday as part of an investigation into a corruption case involving the country's telecom giant, casting a shadow on the prime minister's upcoming visit to Washington.

Mr Netanyahu was questioned at his official residence just hours before he was due to fly to the United States.

Last month, police recommended that the prime minister be indicted for a series of serious corruption charges including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other cases.

"A prime minister under investigation can not, and may not, take crucial decisions", Shuki Cohen, a 63-year-old economist from Moshav Arugot, said.

According to the Thursday's report, police also possess messages between the two women that relate to the benefits extended to Bezeq - the payback that the prime minister is suspected of having given Elovitch in return for positive coverage by Walla.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in all of the instances.

In Case 3000, which may be even more explosive, several members of Netanyahu's inner circle have been named as suspects, questioned or arrested in what is said to be a corrupt multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Germany.

Media reports say Nir Hefetz and Eli Kamir, both former media advisers for the Netanyahu family, are alleged in 2015 to have offered judge Hila Gerstel a promotion in return for closing the criminal case. The Israeli media has reported that he has agreed to become a government witness.

Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua
Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua

"Tendentious and lying leaks against Mrs. Netanyahu are meant to hurt the prime minister and the Likud government".

"We want to see Netanyahu go to trial and, if needed, go to jail or go home". Some cars beeped their horns in support as they drove by.

In one, called Case 1000, he's suspected of bribery over gifts, which authorities say were worth nearly $300,000, he obtained from affluent businessmen.

As it stands, PM's governing coalition partners stand by him, and await attorney-general's next steps. Political analysts say that could change if the investigations against Netanyahu intensify.

Police suspect Elovitch was given business concessions in return for Netanyahu receiving good press on Walla!, a news website he owns.

So far Netanyahu's political allies have said they are standing by him, until they hear from the Attorney General.

Netanyahu could also call a snap election to try to stall legal proceedings during the campaign and rally his rightwing power base behind him. A third think he should remain in office.

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