Sara Netanyahu is a suspect in a bribery case targeting her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a police superintendent said Thursday in court.
The police official, Uri Kaner, appeared at a court hearing on so-called Case 4000, a corruption investigation in which the prime minister is suspected of loosening regulations for Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm
In return, he and his wife were allegedly given positive coverage on the company’s popular Walla News website.
In response to a question from the attorney for Iris Elovitch, the wife of Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch, Kaner said Sara Netanyahu is suspected of receiving bribes.
Later Thursday, Israeli media reported that Yair Netanyahu, the 27-year-old son of the prime minister and his wife, is also a suspect in the case.
Sara Netanyahu’s attorneys called the accusation against her “absurd.”
“So what if the police said it,” they said in a statement. “This is completely false.”
The prime minister’s office released a statement mocking the case by asserting that police might as well have investigated the Netanyahu family dog Kaia, who died in February.
“Kaia is lucky she passed away before she could be added to the circle of suspects who are suspected of bribery,” the statement said. “There’s no limit to the absurdity, and anyway, coverage of Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Walla site was and has remained negative on a regular basis.”
Police allege that when Netanyahu was serving as the minister of communications — a post he held from 2014 to 2017 in addition to being prime minister — he helped Shaul Elovitch, a personal friend, by giving his company reprieve from various telecommunications rules.
Police have questioned the prime minister 11 times regarding this case, most recently for four hours on Aug. 17, after which he announced through a spokesman that “the police’s case has finally collapsed.”
An attorney representing Israel’s state prosecutor said that the “investigation is in advanced stages” and he expects it to be concluded in the next six months.
At Thursday’s hearing, Kaner said there remain “people who were not interrogated in this case.”
The timing is crucial for Netanyahu, a four-term prime minister who faces elections next year and is under investigation in multiple corruption inquiries.
In February, police issued a recommendation that he be indicted in two cases. Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit is expected to rule next month on whether to follow that recommendation.
In one of the cases, police allege that Netanyahu improperly accepted expensive gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and other businessmen with interests before the Israeli government.
In the other, Netanyahu is accused of negotiating with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the wide-circulation tabloid Yediot Aharonot, for favorable coverage in exchange for government action aimed at harming a competing newspaper, Israel Hayom.
Netanyahu has intimated that he would not resign even if charged, which would take Israel into uncharted legal territory.
His wife’s alleged involvement in the Bezeq case is not her first brush with the law.
In October, she is scheduled to go on trial for fraud and breach of trust in a case in which she and a former deputy director-general of the prime minister’s residence allegedly charged the state about $100,000 for gourmet meals enjoyed by her family but falsely claimed to be for public events.
Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent.