Israel prosecutor denies going easy on Netanyahu
ISRAEL’S attorney general said he would approve a criminal probe of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if “reasonable” grounds were found, countering charges that the two men are too close.
In July, the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, said he had given the go-ahead for inquiries into a “matter” involving Mr Netanyahu, defining the case as “an examination and not a criminal investigation into the PM”.
Israeli media said it concerned suspicions of fraud and money laundering against Mr Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harrow.
Mr Mandelblit, who was appointed attorney general in February after serving three years as Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, has been accused by some media of dragging his feet over the case.
Yediot Aharonot newspaper on September 26 quoted extensively from an interview given by Mr Mandelblit for a coming edition of the Israel Bar Association’s magazine in which he says his actions are strictly professional.
“No one has an interest in delaying the probe. No one derives any benefit in it being delayed,” he said.
“If reasonable suspicion comes to light, it will turn into a criminal investigation. I don’t care who the subject is.”
At this stage that is not the case, Mr Mandelblit said, “but the examination is still not over, and changes are always a possibility”.
According to Haaretz newspaper, Mr Harrow was suspected of involvement in the fictitious sale of a business supposedly worth US$3 million.
It is not the first time that the premier’s name has been linked with impropriety, although he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
In June, he acknowledged receiving money from French tycoon Arnaud Mimran, who was sentenced to eight years in jail over a $315 million scam involving the trade of carbon emissions permits.
In May, Israel’s state comptroller released a critical report about Mr Netanyahu’s foreign trips, some with his wife and children, between 2003 and 2005, when he was finance minister.
A new row is brewing after reports Mr Netanyahu had petitioned a Jerusalem court to block a freedom of information request from a local NGO which wants details of his official spending on his family’s laundry made public.
Israeli public radio quoted Mr Netanyahu as saying on his return home from a trip to New York that the “interest in his laundry is sheer pettiness and even the prime minister has a right to privacy”. –
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (right) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on September 25.