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Israeli police question Netanyahu over bribery allegations

Prime minister interviewed by officers for the 12th time in connection to Case 1,000 and Case 2,000
Israel's prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned on Friday by the police investigating two cases in which he is accused of corruption, Israeli media reported.

This is the 12th time that Netanyahu - who is at the centre of five corruption cases - has been questioned by police over the allegations.

Officers probed Netanyahu on Case 1,000 and Case 2,000, as they are known. Opened in late 2016, Case 1,000 involves accusations that Netanyahu committed bribery, fraud and breach of public trust by receiving gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer.

The cost of the gifts is estimated to be worth more than $280,000, according to the Israeli police, and included champagne, cigars and jewellery.

In Case 2,000 Israeli police are investigating Netanyahu's dealings with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the biggest-selling Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. It is probing allegations that Netanyahu and Mosez discussed ways of slowing the growth of a rival daily newspaper, Israel Hayom.

Police have said they believe there is sufficient evidence to charge Mozes with offering a bribe.

Netanyahu corruption probe: The five cases hanging over Israeli prime minister

Israeli police's last interview of Netanyahu was in August over Case 4,000, known as the Bezeq affair, in which police allege that Netanyahu and his wife Sara received favourable news coverage on Walla news site, controlled by Bezeq Israel Telecom, in return for favours from communications regulators.

Netanyahu and his family deny any wrongdoing.

The prime minister, Israel's dominant political figure for a generation - in power since 2009 and for 12 years in total since 1996 - calls the allegations against him a "witch hunt". He has said he will seek a fifth term in a national election due in late 2019.

So far, partners in Netanyahu's governing coalition have stood by him, saying they are awaiting the attorney general's next move. Political analysts say that could change if the investigations against Netanyahu intensify.

Netanyahu could also call a snap election to try to stall legal proceedings during the campaign and rally his right-wing power base behind him.

On Sunday his wife Sara Netanyahu will go on trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust. She is alleged to have fraudulently spent around $100,000 of public money on gourmet meals.

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