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Israel police question Netanyahu for six hours over 'submarines affair'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a special cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day, at the Bible Lands Museum, in Jerusalem, Sunday May 13, 2018.
Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP

Israeli detectives quizzed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for over six hours on Tuesday, for the first time honing in on the premier's involvement in the so-called "submarines affair" that has ensnared members of his inner circle.

Police reportedly suspect bribes were solicited during negotiations between German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp and the Israeli government over the purchase of new submarines for Israel's navy.

Police have not said Netanyahu is suspected of wrongdoing in the affair, which is also known as 'Case 3,000' to distinguish it from the several other graft probes surrounding the prime minister or his associates.

A statement from Netanyahu's private spokesman said that "the prime minister gave open evidence" in the case.

"He detailed the range of professional considerations that guided his decision-making regarding submarines and vessels, and their importance to the state's security."

AP images/AMIR COHEN

"The prime minister welcomes the opportunity given to him to make the picture completely clear and put an end, once and for all, to the false allegations made against him by other politicians," the statement concluded.

A police statement confirmed that the submarines case was the subject of the interview.

The questioning took place at the prime minister's official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem and lasted some six hours.

Israeli media had reported that Netanyahu was expected to be probed on new evidence that reportedly emerged in Case 4,000, in which police reportedly suspect Netanyahu made concessions benefiting telecommunications giant Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive media coverage of him and his wife Sara on Bezeq-controlled news website Walla.

New evidence in the case obtained from state’s witness and former personal spokesman for the Netanyahu family, Nir Hefetz, reportedly shows that both Netanyahu and Elovitch were clearly aware that a quid pro quo deal was taking place, and that Hefetz spoke with Elovitch six to seven times a day when he serving as an adviser to the prime minister.

Hefetz has also provided the police with new evidence in two other corruption cases against Netanyahu, including another involving an alleged quid-pro-quo agreement with one of the country’s leading newspapers.

Some 20 protesters gathered outside Netanyahu's residence calling on him to step down, as he prepared to face police interrogation for the tenth time since the beginning of 2017 in connection to the slew of corruption probes the premier is currently embroiled in.

JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

'Case 1,000' centers on suspicions that Netanyahu received lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen in exchange for favorable government treatment.

\Case 2,000' centers on an alleged arrangement with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to limit circulation of the newspaper's main rival, the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom broadsheet, in exchange for more favorable coverage.

The case was re-opened several weeks ago, with Netanyahu, Mozes, and other key witnesses and suspects to give additional testimony after new evidence, documents, and recordings relating to legislative efforts to curb Israel Hayom’s circulation in 2014 were obtained.

The Prime Minister’s Office said last week that Hefetz’s testimony and new evidence “will amount to nothing.” Netanyahu has vociferously denied any wrongdoing in any of the affairs.

The cases have fueled speculation he could be forced to step down or call an early election but Netanyahu has maintained that he is innocent and has denounced allegations against him as a media and police witch hunt.

See also:

Netanyahu's tangled web of corruption cases explained

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