Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat across from police investigators of the National Fraud Unit for two sessions, in which he was questioned under caution for a total of eight hours, as part of an ongoing corruption investigation.
The psychology of these interrogations – and any future questioning of Netanyahu, are highly important to police investigators who seek to gain an upper-hand on the prime minister.
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Everything – from the chairs on which the investigators and Netanyahu sit, to the timing of the questioning – is planned.
“Because of past investigations, Netanyahu is skilled at being questioned and he knows the psychology of the investigations,” said attorney Yair Regev, a former senior officer of the National Fraud Unit, who investigated former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai.
Netanyahu is the second consecutive prime minister to be questioned by the unit, following Ehud Olmert, who was convicted of bribery in 2014.
Last Monday, Dep.-Ch. Koresh Barnur, head of the National Fraud Unit, was seen entering the prime minister’s house on Balfour Street to begin the initial three-hour interrogation. Netanyahu was again questioned on Thursday, this time for five hours, on allegations he accepted gifts and thereby breached the public trust, and reportedly regarding an alleged bribery attempt from businessman Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the principal owner of Yediot Aharonot.
At Netanyahu’s residence, one room is given to police for the interrogation and another as the “control room,” where the questioning is monitored and recorded.
Police seek to catch a suspect off balance during questioning and draw contradictions from their answers, Regev said.
As opposed to most interrogations, which take place at the police station, a prime minister is questioned at his home or office.
This poses a challenge for investigators, who thereby lose the element of control of the environment, remarked Regev.
“It is a place that isn’t isolated enough, and it is also a place where Netanyahu has a significant psychological advantage on the investigators,” he said.
Investigators should try to arrange the questioning room so it looks like an interrogation room, to help regain some of that control, according to Regev. They should remove any table between themselves and Netanyahu “to see his whole body and all his movements.”
Moreover they should ensure their chairs are slightly higher than that of the prime minister, to prevent the psychological effect of “Netanyahu looking down on them.”