Binyamin Netanyahu’s chances of emerging unscathed from a series of corruption scandals suffered a serious blow on Wednesday when one of the Israeli prime minister’s closest associates, Shlomo Filber, began testifying in a new graft probe after signing a state’s witness agreement.
The former Communication Ministry Director-General will reportedly reveal what he knows about deals made between the ministry and the key Israeli telecommunications company.
The reports came shortly after another bombshell allegation that a different longtime confidant attempted to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Mr Netanyahu’s wife.
A final case, dubbed 3000, is being investigated separately and has involved Netanyahu allies, but the prime minister has not been named as a suspect.
Yet despite growing pressure, Netanyahu has remained defiant, slamming the latest wave of arrests as part of a media-propelled “witch-hunt”.
Israeli media also reported that a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family had offered a promotion to a public official, trying to ensure his assistance in closing a criminal probe against Netanyahu’s wife Sara. Late Tuesday, he agreed to turn state witness in the investigation in exchange for staying out of prison. Hefetz and the middleman are being held in police custody.
According to police, Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan was responsible for some 750,000 shekels in gifts, while Australian billionaire James Packer provided the other 250,000 shekels’ worth.
At the time of the alleged approach, Ms Gerstel, the former president of Israel’s central district court, was in the running to become the attorney- general. The attorney-general must decide whether to accept the police recommendation to charge him.
UNDER INVESTIGATION NOW Possible violations of money-laundering, breach-of-trust and securities laws; whether Mr. Netanyahu’s aides traded official actions for favorable coverage on the Walla site; possible obstruction of the Securities Authority’s investigation.
Meanwhile, police believe Netanyahu sought a secret deal for favorable coverage with the publisher of top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot, whose publisher Arnon Moses could also face bribery charges. Netanyahu dismissed the allegations as “delusional”, and Israeli commentators said Tuesday the case did not appear to threaten him.
This morning there was only one topic of discussion on the streets and in the cafe’s of Tel Aviv-How long can Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold on to power and what is the most likely scenario of how his Prime Ministership will end?
Gabbay insisted that Netanyahu should resign immediately, claiming that other parties’ leaders would agree with him.
The attorney general will have to rule on this case as well. A survey published on February 14 showed that nearly half of Israel’s electorate believe police allegations of bribery against Netanyahu, while 25 per cent said they believed Netanyahu’s denials.
Under “Case 4000”, Netanyahu stands accused of favoring the Israeli telephone communications giant Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage on its Walla! portal, one of the most popular among Israelis.