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Israeli police question Netanyahu again in telecom case

Israeli protesters hold signs against government corruption as Israeli policemen arrive to the residence of Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem, Monday, March 26, 2018. (Oded Balilty / Associated Press)
Israeli protesters hold signs against government corruption as Israeli policemen arrive to the residence of Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem, Monday, March 26, 2018. (Oded Balilty / Associated Press)
By Tia Goldenberg Associated Press

JERUSALEM – Israeli police on Monday questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as his wife and son, in a corruption case involving the country’s telecom giant, one of a slew of scandals that have engulfed the long-ruling Israeli leader.

It was the second time that Netanyahu has been questioned in the case, in which he is suspected of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bezeq telecom company. In return, Bezeq’s popular news site, Walla, allegedly provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

Police said the questioning lasted for a “number of hours,” without elaborating.

Netanyahu held the powerful communications portfolio at the time of the alleged deals with Bezeq. Two Netanyahu confidants, a former family spokesman and a former Communications Ministry director, have agreed to testify against the prime minister in exchange for immunity.

Israel’s Yediot Ahronot daily reported that police were to question Netanyahu over allegations made by longtime family spokesman Nir Hefetz, one of the confidants arrested and later released. The Haaretz newspaper said he will deliver recordings of Netanyahu and his wife as part of his agreement with police.

Police were seen arriving at Netanyahu’s residence Monday morning. Channel 2 TV reported that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and son Yair were questioned at another location. It is the first time that Yair Netanyahu has been questioned in the case.

Israeli police have already recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

Netanyahu is suspected of accepting lavish gifts from billionaire friends, and promising to promote legislation to help a major Israeli newspaper against its free rival in exchange for favorable coverage. Longtime aide Ari Harow is a state witness in one of those cases.

Israel’s attorney general is now reviewing the police recommendations, a process that could take months, and will decide whether to indict Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the accusations as a witch hunt orchestrated by hostile media and an overaggressive police force.

The graft scandals have come as Israel’s coalition recently averted a crisis that could have led to early elections. Israel’s opposition accused Netanyahu of manufacturing the crisis in order to force a new election. Early polls would have shifted attention away from his legal problems, and a win would have shored up his position ahead of a possible indictment.

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