Israel’s Netanyahu faces 11th grilling over alleged graft

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Police said investigators on Tuesday questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over one of several graft cases that threaten to topple him.

“The prime minister was questioned for several hours at his residence today in the course of an investigation being carried out by the national fraud and serious crimes unit and the securities authority,” police said in a statement.

The police did not say what he was questioned about but Israeli media said the subject was alleged corruption involving local telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch.

This is the 11th time that Netanyahu has been questioned in various cases, either as a suspect or a witness.

Last month, he was quizzed as a witness in a probe of alleged corruption over the state purchase of three German submarines.

He is not considered a suspect in that case, but some of his close associates have been questioned several times.

In a separate case, his wife Sara was last month charged with misusing state funds to buy catered meals costing $100,000 (85,000 euros) by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the premier’s official residence.

Her trial is to open at the Jerusalem magistrates court on October 7.

In February, police recommended that the premier be indicted in two cases, though the attorney general has yet to decide whether to do so.

Netanyahu's defense

In the Bezeq case, Netanyahu is alleged to have sought favorable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for government policies that may have benefited the mogul’s interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

A statement from Netanyahu’s personal spokesman after Tuesday’s questioning said there was no such trade-off.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has never made a deal with Elovitch in exchange for supportive coverage,” it said.

“On the contrary, for years the prime minister has been consistently covered by the Walla site in a hostile manner.”

It added that all decisions he made relating to Bezeq were based on decisions by professionals, including the Antitrust Authority, the Cable and Satellite Council and the legal adviser to the communications ministry.

In addition to the premiership, Netanyahu also held the communications portfolio between November 2014 and February 2017, covering the run-up to the March 2015 elections when the deal with Elovitch is alleged to have been done.

Netanyahu, prime minister for a total of around 12 years, has always maintained his innocence in all the cases, but the investigations have gradually ratcheted up speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.

So far his coalition partners have stood by him despite the allegations, and the prime minister is not obliged to step down even if formally charged.

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