Israeli corruption probe turns focus to Sara Netanyahu, media manipulation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in September. Police have interviewed Sara Netanyahu about whether she illegally accepted gifts from a wealthy friend in exchange for political favors. UPI File Photo

TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 12 (UPI) — Police interviewed Sara Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister’s wife, in the ongoing corruption probe surrounding the couple’s relationship with two wealthy international businessmen.

According to the Jerusalem Post, police are investigating whether any laws were broken when Sara Netanyahu received large amounts of expensive pink champagne from Israeli-born U.S. movie producer Arnon Milchan, a longtime friend of the couple.

Haaertz reported police have searched Milchan’s office in Israel and found receipts for more than $105,000 in gifts purchased for the Netanyahus, including the champagne and expensive cigars the prime minister is known to smoke.

Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned by police twice last week for a total of eight hours. He has repeatedly said the investigation will amount to “nothing because there is nothing.” His lawyer said gifts of cigars or champagne from friends does not amount to corruption because there was never an expectation the favors would be returned in any official capacity.

Israeli police have also two begun pursuing two other potential corruption probes involving the Netanyahus. One involves whether the couple’s son, Yair Netanyahu, was the quid pro quo benefactor of Australian billionaire James Packer’s generosity. Israeli media reported Yair Netanyahu was living in an apartment in the lavish Royal Beach hotel in Tel Aviv that Packer owned. The younger Netanyahu also allegedly received free travel accommodations for expensive vacations from Packer. Police are investigating whether, in exchange for the largess, Packer’s request for permanent residency status in Israel was fast-tracked.

Police are also investigating whether Benjamin Netanyahu colluded with the publisher of a major Israeli newspaper in a bid to receive friendly coverage in exchange for legislation that would hamper a competing newspaper.

Netanyahu in 2014 allegedly approached Israeli media mogul Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the publisher of Yediot Aharonot, and lobbied for more favorable coverage. In exchange, Netanyahu’s government would back a bill outlawing free newspaper distribution, which would have dealt a blow to the competing Israel Hayom paper, financed by Netanyahu confidant and U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

The deal eventually faltered and the legislation never passed.

Knesset member Eitan Cabel, who introduced the Israel Hayom bill in 2014, has also been questioned by police as to whether he was aware at the time of any back-room negotiations between Netanyahu and Mozes when he introduced the bill aimed at Israel Hayom.


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