Former Netanyahu confidant will testify against two Likud ministers: report
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
Former media adviser and confidant to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nir Hefetz, has revealed to investigators earlier this week that he has damning evidence against four senior Likud officials, including two lawmakers, the Times of Israel reported on Thursday.
Hefetz allegedly provided the police with information about “backdoor deals” undertaken by Likud ministers relating to regulation in the healthcare system, real estate and “an explosive issue related to the environment that is still at the heart of the public agenda,” a Ynet report disclosed.
The details provided by Hefetz about the surreptitious activities by the ministers, who currently remain anonymous, will eventually be transferred to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for review. The focus of Hefetz’s investigations, for the time being, is centered on information related to the prime minister.
Earlier this week, Hefetz became the third of Netanyahu’s confidants to turn state’s witness, an agreement that means he will avoid a paying fines or a jail sentence and only face a disciplinary hearing. This immunity is granted in exchange for providing the police with incriminating text messages and recordings of the prime minister and his wife.
The most recent case to embroil the Netanyahu administration coined ‘Case 4000’ focuses on allegations that the owner of Israeli telecom giant Bezeq and Walla! Newswebsite, Shaul Elovitch, allegedly received concessions in favor of Bezeq in return for positive coverage of Netanyahu and his family.
Hefetz is alleged to have acted as a messenger between Netanyahu and the Bezeq-Walla bosses. In a separate case he been implicated for attempting to bribe a retired judge to drop a case against the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu over alleged misuse of public funds.
In a Facebook post published on Wednesday, Netanyahu slammed the practice of using state’s witness accusing the police of conspiring to bring him down. He criticized the procedure as the “manufacture of witnesses” with the aim to “smear [him] at the price of lies.”
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich defended the state’s witness procedure, he described them as “the most important tools for preventing crime organizations and public corruption.”
Hefetz joins Shlomo Filber, a former director general of the Communications Ministry and longtime Netanyahu associate, agreed to turn state witness at the end of February. He was suspected of mediating between Netanyahu and Elovitch in order to promote the regulatory changes worth millions to Bezeq in Case 4000. It was agreed that in exchange for providing useful information he would only face a disciplinary hearing and avoid criminal indictment altogether.
The prime minister has refuted the barrage of accusations thrown at him and has insisted that all his decisions “were made in businesslike fashion and based on professional factors, professional testimonies and legal counsel.”
Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harrow was the first confidant to turn state’s witness last year. He agreed to provide information about two other cases dubbed ‘Case 1000’ and ‘Case 2000’ in return for a more lenient punishment pertaining to another unscrupulous business deal.
Case 1000 centers on suspicions that Netanyahu received gifts such as expensive champagne and cigars from wealthy businessmen including film producer Arnon Milchan and Australian casino mogul James Packer, in exchange for favorable government treatment.
In Case 2000, police are reportedly examining conversations with newspaper proprietor Noni Mozes, leaked excerpts of which were sensationally broadcast on Israeli television earlier this year, which revealed an alleged quid pro quo' arrangement with the Yedioth Ahronoth publisher to limit circulation of the newspaper's main rival in exchange for more favorable coverage.
The successive blows have called into question the future of the premier, the head of a coalition that is seen as the most right-wing government in Israel's history.
Even if charged, Netanyahu would not be legally required to resign.
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