JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli police faced off in a rare public dispute today over an intensifying graft probe that has led to speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.
Netanyahu late yesterday lashed out at the police on his Facebook page over leaks to the Israeli media related to the graft investigation.
That prompted a stern response from the police, who have been probing gifts Netanyahu allegedly received from wealthy supporters as well as suspicions he sought a secret deal with the publisher of a top-selling newspaper.
His wife Sara has faced a separate investigation into alleged misuse of public funds.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has accused members of the Israeli media of seeking to force him out of office.
Israel's Channel 2 television reported last night that the long-serving prime minister is to soon be questioned again by police as part of the investigation, prompting Netanyahu's Facebook post.
"When he took office, the police chief made two important commitments: that there would be no more leaks and that the police will no longer make recommendations," he wrote, referring to reports that the police recommended to prosecutors his wife be indicted.
He said however that the "illegal leaks have become a tsunami," while mentioning by name a consultant employed by the police, Lior Horev.
Netanyahu also wrote that there "is a transparent media campaign" against him, adding that the allegations will amount to nothing.
The post prompted a rare response from the police, who denied any political motivation.
"The police carry out their work in keeping with the law and will not be provoked by baseless attacks that disrupt their work and undermine the rule of law," a police spokeswoman said.
The graft probe has shaken Israeli politics and stirred speculation over who could succeed the 67-year-old Netanyahu if he is forced out of office.
He has been prime minister for a total of more than 11 years, from 1996-99 and beginning again in 2009.
In another case last month, Sara Netanyahu was informed by the attorney general that she faces possible trial over alleged misuse of public funds.
Separately, police have been probing suspected corruption in the purchase of submarines from Germany's ThyssenKrupp.
David Shimron, a relative of Netanyahu and his family lawyer who also represented ThyssenKrupp in Israel, has been among those questioned.
David Sharan, a former chief of Netanyahu's office, has also been detained.
Netanyahu himself, however, has not been named as a suspect in the submarine case.