Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned by the Israel Police for three hours on Monday evening at his official residence in Jerusalem over suspicion of receiving gifts from businessmen in breach of his role as a public servant.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, but the involvement of the police's anti-fraud unit indicated questions raised about him are considered serious enough to merit an investigation. Police said Netanyahu was questioned "under caution," a term signaling that anything he said could be used as evidence against him.
“The National Unit of the Israel Police investigated the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, under caution this evening on suspicion that he received benefits from businessmen,” the police spokesperson’s unit said in a statement shortly after. “Naturally, no further details beyond these can be provided at this stage.”
While no information was provided about what the prime minister was questioned about, a statement by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit detailed a list of claims that arose and did not present sufficient grounds to launch an investigation.
"The nature of the investigation precludes us at this stage from giving details of the ongoing investigation but we will consider releasing more information from time to time according to developments," Mandelblit's statement said.
The attorney general said that an initial probe was launched on July 10, 2016, "due to information received on a number of issues from the police's Lahav 443 Special Investigations Unit relating to, among other things, the prime minister.”
He added that new, detailed information had come to light during the past month which supported questioning the prime minister under caution.
Police investigators, the attorney general said, examined "a long string of claims that the prime minister allegedly carried out crimes relating to ethicality."
Addressing claims Netanyahu received forbidden funding for the 2009 elections campaign, the statement noted: "The police received information claiming the prime minister was allegedly had two election campaigns. One campaign was 'official' and was declared as required by law, and another campaign operated covertly and was funded by money that was not declared in accordance with the law.
"To examine this claim, the officials involved in managing the campaign were questioned and different documents were seized. The findings of the probe did not support the aforementioned claims."
Addressing claims Netanyahu swayed the results of the 2009 primaries at the Likud party, the statement noted: "The police received information claiming the prime minister or his close associates were allegedly involved in swaying the results of the primaries by tampering with the information in the computer system.
“To examine this claim, the officials involved in the primaries, including professionals responsible for the computer system, were questioned. The findings of the probe ruled out the claim regarding the attempt to sway or the actual swaying of the primaries results."
Addressing claims of receiving illicit benefits and having flights funded by wealthy individuals, the statement noted: "The police received information claiming that certain wealthy individuals systematically funded the prime minister's flights abroad and bestowed upon him illicit benefits relating to said trips. In light of this, testimonies were taken from several relevant individuals, some of whom were abroad. Some of the allegations were found to be groundless and were therefore rejected, while some factual evidence was found for other allegations that nevertheless did not raise the level of reasonable doubt concerning an offense that is necessary to warrant a criminal investigation."
Addressing claims of double funding of trips abroad, the statement went on to say: "Following further information that was received on the matter, several probes were conducted regarding a possibility that the prime minister, during a period that preceded his current term as prime minister, was involved in receiving excess funding for flights and over the possibility that this extra funding was diverted for his personal use.
"To examine these claims, those involved in organizing the prime minister's flights were questioned, and many documents from the relevant time period were examined. All this was in addition to the probe that was conducted at the time in a similar context, following which it was previously decided that there is no place to instruct on launching a criminal investigation on the issues that were investigated at the time. The current probe and new evidence gathered by it have similarly found that there it is not (sufficient) justification to move on to an investigation in this matter."
"We notice reports in the media," Netanyahu said during a Likud faction meeting. "We hear the celebrations and sense the way the wind blows in TV studios and in the halls of the opposition—hold off on the partying, don't jump the gun. I told you and I repeat: Nothing will happen, because there is nothing. You will continue making wild allegations and we will continue leading the State of Israel."