Israeli police said on Tuesday that two associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suspected of offering a judge promotion in return for closing a criminal case against the premier's wife.
The case police have skipped for now, file 3,000, a.k.a. the Submarine Scandal, is probably the mots serious of all the three or four cases still pending against the prime minister, involving allegations that Netanyahu opted to purchase German submarines to the tune of roughly half a billion euro each (there were three) against the expert opinion of the IDF brass, benefiting his associates.
Gerstel did not report the alleged bribe attempt to the police but she shared it with a colleague Esther Hayut, who was then a justice on the Supreme Court and now is the President of the Supreme Court.
The two men have been identified as Nir Hefetz and Eli Kamir, both former media advisers for the Netanyahu family.
Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other top Bezeq executives.
"As for the second claim which is no less preposterous and no less perfidious regarding appointment of the Attorney General: "I never asked Nir Hefetz about this, he never offered me anything about it, and you know what?"
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They are suspected of promoting a deal to give Netanyahu and his wife favorable coverage in Walla, a news site controlled by Bezeq, in return for the promotion of regulations worth hundreds of millions of USA dollars to the telecom company. "I can not believe he raised this possibility with anyone", Netanyahu said.
The latest probes come days after police announced that there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.
The prime minister also responded to reports of an alleged 2015 offer by a former spokesperson for the Netanyahu family, Nir Hefetz, to appoint a judge as attorney general if she agreed to halt an investigation into the prime minister's wife Sara.
According to the police, Netanyahu and his family received goods, including jewelry, cigars, and Champaign, worth about one million shekels (282,800 dollars) from Israeli businessman and Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer. "In return, police say, Netanyahu had operated on Milchan's behalf on USA visa matters, introduced a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman", reports The Guardian. Netanyahu dismissed the investigations as "delusional, fabricated claims" that are part of an "orchestrated campaign" against him and vowed to "continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly, discreetly and with great dedication".
Meanwhile, police believe Netanyahu sought a secret deal for favorable coverage with the publisher of top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot, whose publisher Arnon Moses could also face bribery charges.
Netanyahu has long accused the Israeli press corps of being biased against him and has taken steps to counter it by promoting more sympathetic outlets to him.
Netanyahu's coalition partners will back him for now, as they wait for the attorney general to decide whether to indict him.