* Netanyahu to be questioned over gifts from businessmen
* Prime minister's office denies any wrongdoing
* Attorney general approved criminal investigation
By Luke Baker
JERUSALEM, Jan 2 Police are expected to question
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in
Jerusalem on Monday on suspicion of receiving gifts from
businessmen in breach of his role as a public servant, Israeli
The move was authorised by Attorney-General Avichai
Mandelblit, who decided after a preliminary probe that there was
sufficient evidence for a criminal investigation, Haaretz
newspaper reported. The questioning will take place on Monday
evening, Israel Radio said.
The police and Justice Ministry would not confirm when the
interview would take place or the nature of the investigation,
details of which have appeared in the media in recent days.
Netanyahu's office has denied any wrongdoing.
"All the supposed affairs will turn out to be fiction," his
family spokesman said on Monday. "We are repeating: there will
be nothing, because there is nothing."
Photographers were camped outside the heavily guarded
residence, hoping to get pictures of investigators arriving.
Black screens were erected inside the gates of the property to
block the view.
Haaretz and other newspapers said the probe related to gifts
worth "hundreds of thousands of shekels" ($1=3.85 shekels) given
to Netanyahu by Israeli and foreign businessmen.
Channel 2, a commercial network, said the investigation was
one of two cases now open against the prime minister, although
it said details of the second remained unclear.
Netanyahu, 67, has been in power on and off since 1996. He
is currently in his fourth term as prime minister and will
become Israel's longest-serving leader if he stays in office
until the end of next year.
He and his wife, Sara, have weathered several scandals over
the years, including investigations into the misuse of state
funds and an audit of the family's spending on everything from
laundry to ice cream. They have denied any wrongdoing.
Netanyahu is not the first prime minister to be questioned
in a criminal case.
Ehud Olmert, who held office from 2006 to 2009, is currently
serving 18 months in prison after being convicted of breach of
trust and bribery in 2014.
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon was questioned while in
office in 2003 and 2004 over allegations of bribery and
corruption involving him and his two sons. In 2006, his son Omri
was convicted of corruption and served time in prison.
Netanyahu's police appointment drew a barrage of commentary
from the centre-left opposition in parliament, with politicians
calling for him to go.
Ahead of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu responded,
saying: "I suggest the opposition calm down."
Israeli commentators pointed out that while Netanyahu may be
questioned, it has happened many times in the past and prime
ministers have gone on governing, sometimes for years.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)