Israel's Attorney General launches full criminal investigation into PM Benjamin Netanyahu
New reports of a corruption investigation into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu roiled Israel Wednesday, coinciding dramatically with the United States' defense of its abstention from a United Nations vote allowing a rebuke of Israeli settlements.
The Jerusalem Post reported Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit approved the opening of "a full criminal investigation" against Netanyahu.
The Post cited a story from an Israeli television station, Channel 10, "which lacked details about the nature of the investigation," adding that Mandelblit's office declined to comment.
Reuters separately reported that "Netanyahu has in the past denied wrongdoing in the purchase of submarines from Germany, where media have reported a potential conflict of interest involving his lawyer."
According to the Post, "To date, there have been a number of reported possible scandals relating to Netanyahu and some of his current or former aides' actions and connections with wealthy individuals, but nothing has moved from a preliminary review to a full criminal investigation."
The stories about the burgeoning investigation ramped up as Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a lengthy, impassioned defense of America's abstention from a United Nations Security Council vote seen as a diplomatic rebuke to Israel.
The resolution, which passed 14-0 with the United States abstaining, chastised Israel for pursuing the construction of settlements in the disputed West Bank, saying that doing so has hampered hopes of a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
The stories sent the Twitterverse into overdrive just as Netanyahu delivered his rebuttal to Kerry, calling the U.S. diplomat's speech "a great disappointment."
Rumblings about investigations into Netanyahu's dealings, including allegations of fraud, have long swirled in Israel — and have been denied by the prime minister's office as "nonsense."
"In June, it was reported that Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich gave his go-ahead to the secret investigation by special police unit Lahav 433, but that he had demanded full cooperation on secrecy and that no details be leaked to the media," the Times of Israel reported Monday.
The Times further said, "Mandelblit also reportedly instructed employees in the state prosecutor's office to look into allegations that Netanyahu accepted 1 million euros (about $1.1 million) from accused French fraudster Arnaud Mimran in 2009."