Israeli police again question Netanyahu on corruption allegations

Israeli police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Israeli police again question Netanyahu on corruption allegations

  • Two police vehicles arrived on Friday at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence
  • Media reported that Netanyahu is to be questioned over a corruption case involving Israel’s telecom giant

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went through a new round of questioning on Friday, police said, amid graft allegations that have threatened to topple him.
The premier was questioned at his official residence in the context of investigations by the national economic crimes unit, a police statement in Hebrew said.
It gave no further details.
Investigators arrived at the premier’s Jerusalem residence in the morning to interview him over allegations of corruption involving local telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, according to Israeli media reports.
It was the 12th time Netanyahu has been questioned in various cases, either as a suspect or a witness.
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 could have benefited the mogul’s interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
After a previous round of questioning in July, Netanyahu’s office said there was no such trade-off.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has never made a deal with Elovitch in exchange for supportive coverage,” it said, adding that the Walla site had consistently covered the premier “in a hostile manner.”
Elovitch was arrested in February along with six other people including Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family.
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 he is alleged to have made the deal with Elovitch.
Netanyahu was interrogated for more than five hours in July, reportedly over the same affair.
In a separate case, his wife Sara was charged in June 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.
In February, police recommended the premier be indicted in two cases, though the attorney general has yet to decide whether to do so.
Netanyahu, prime minister for around 12 years in total, has maintained his innocence in all of the cases, talking of a “witch hunt” and saying he was determined to stay in his job.
He would not be legally obliged to resign if charged.
So far his coalition partners have stood by him despite the allegations, but the investigations have gradually ratcheted up speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.


Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

Updated 47 min 17 sec ago
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Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities have removed nearly 30 kilometers of concrete blast walls across Baghdad in the last six months, mostly around the capital’s high-security Green Zone, a senior official told AFP.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, T-walls — thick barriers about six meters tall and one meter wide — have surrounded potential targets of car bombs or other attacks.
When premier Adel Abdel Mahdi came to power last year, he promised to remove barriers, checkpoints and other security measures to make Baghdad easier to navigate.
“Over the last six months, we removed 18,000 T-walls in Baghdad, including 14,000 in the Green Zone alone,” said Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bayati, the PM’s top military adviser.
Hundreds of the security checkpoints that contributed to Baghdad’s notorious traffic jams have also been removed.
And according to the Baghdad municipality, 600 streets that had been closed off to public access have been opened in the last six months.
Among them are key routes crossing through Baghdad’s Green Zone, the enclave where government buildings, UN agencies and embassies including the US and UK missions are based.
It was long inaccessible to most Iraqis until an order from Abdel Mahdi last year, and families can now be seen picking their way across its manicured parks for sunset pictures.
Iraq is living a rare period of calm after consecutive decades of violence, which for Baghdad peaked during the sectarian battles from 2006 to 2008.
It was followed, in 2014, by Daesh’s sweep across a third of the country and a three-year battle to oust the militants from their urban strongholds.
The group still wages hit-and-run attacks against Iraqi security forces and government targets, and Baghdad’s authorities are on high alert.
Thousands of the removed T-walls have been placed on Baghdad’s outskirts to prevent infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells, according to Bayati.