The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been questioned twice by Isreali police in the opening days of the new year over allegations of corruption.
Up until this point, only an inquiry into potentially illegal actions by Netanyahu was being conducted, which began in mid-July.
The inquiry quickly became more serious and took a sharp turn as police visited the prime minister’s residence on Monday to begin an actual criminal investigation.
This indicates that the police found evidence that would warrant a full-fledged criminal investigation.
During the three-hour questioning, Netanyahu was informed that he was “under caution on the suspicions of receiving benefits,” reports CNN.
Legally in Israel, being “under caution” means that anything the suspect says during questioning could possibly be used against them in a court of law.
The specifics of the allegations remain unclear as few details have been released. Essentially, it is suspected that the prime minister received illicit favors or benefits from wealthy individuals.
The other incident under investigation remains undisclosed at present.
Israeli media has pinpointed some of the individuals from whom Netanyahu is supposed to have received the under-the-table benefits which form the basis of the first charge.
These individuals include billionaire Ronald Lauder as well as Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer.
In regards to the second set of charges, the media has only implicated that Netanyahu is at the center of the investigation and an unspecified number of his family members are involved.
Speculation is circulating as to the true causes behind the investigation. Some were looking all the way back to 2009 when Netanyahu was possibly implicated in issues related to elections and primaries as well as issues about receiving illicit benefits from overseas sources.
However, Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandeblit, recently dismissed these conjectures.
While refusing to give any indication about the nature of the charges against Netanyahu, he did indicate that the investigation is not linked to any past investigations that were already dismissed.
The charges alone do not require Netanyahu to step down from his position. However, he will be required to resign if he is convicted.
Furthermore, the Israeli high court is required to uphold the conviction to warrant a resignation.
Still, just being indicted on criminal charges would put enormous pressure on Netanyahu from the public as well as political opponents to voluntarily step down.
Neither the ambiguous statements of police investigators nor the prime minister’s statements about the ongoing investigation have shed any light on the matter. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
In fact, Netanyahu has indicated that the criminal investigation is politically motivated.
The prime minister has even taken to social media to air his grievances, stating that the only way he will be removed from office is democratically by the public at the polls because he has not committed any crimes.
Still, Netanyahu has had a somewhat tumultuous career as prime minister during his four terms.
Netanyahu was investigated all the way back in the late 1990s, during his first term in office, for fraud, but nothing ever came of those charges.
Fuel has certainly been added to the speculation surrounding the criminal investigation by Netanyahu’s long-standing contentious relationship with the Israeli press.
The press has contributed to the perception of Netanyahu as a socialite who cavorts with celebrities internationally while trying to garner deals for his country’s parliament.
Indeed, the press has made sure to highly publicize the prime minister’s and his wife’s spending habits, painting him as an overly-lavish dignitary.
Netanyahu claims that the press’s motivation for their harsh portrayal of his character is equivalent to a witch hunt.
Essentially, the prime minister is claiming that the media’s hostility is a result of his more conservative, hard-line political views that are at odds with the more liberal-minded media.
Despite the media backlash, Netanyahu could possibly become Israel’s longest-serving leader, especially with a stable coalition government and no potent political power to challenge him for office. However, this could easily change as a result of the current criminal invegstigation.
Netanyahu’s predecessor was forced to leave his position after being found guilty of corruption.
As such, the ongoing investigation could have lasting repercussions for the Israeli nation as a whole.
If Netanyahu meets the same fate and two prime ministers in a row are forced to resign, the effect may be damaging to the Israeli people’s confidence in their government institutions in future.