JERUSALEM (Mar. 15)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be next in line for police questioning regarding alleged influence peddling by his foreign minister.
Israel’s attorney general cleared the way for Netanyahu to be questioned about allegations that Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon bribed a former general to give false testimony in Sharon’s libel trial against the Ha’aretz newspaper.
Netanyahu’s office criticized the development, saying it had only learned about it from media reports.
Just the same, his spokesman said the premier would fully cooperate with a police request to submit testimony.
Sharon has denied the allegations that he included Avigdor Ben Gal in a delegation to Russia and pledged to help him obtain a natural gas deal there in exchange for Ben Gal’s changing his testimony at the trial.
Several weeks after the trip, Ben Gal testified in the libel suit, which Sharon brought against the Israeli daily Ha’aretz for running an article charging that Sharon had misled the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin about his plans to launch a full-scale invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
Ben Gal’s testimony contradicted his earlier statements that Sharon had concealed the invasion plan from Begin.
Sharon ultimately lost the suit.
The investigation into possible witness tampering was launched seven months ago at the request of Ha’aretz, whose attorney claimed that Sharon had bribed Ben Gal to change his testimony.
Ben Gal’s attorney countered that there had been no impropriety, adding that his client was included in the delegation to Russia at Netanyahu’s recommendation.
Police are expected to try to verify whether this is true, and if so, whether Netanyahu knew Ben Gal was among the witnesses due to testify at the trial.