Netanyahu’s aide testifies against him
February 22, 2018 | Expert Insights
On Tuesday, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s aide Schlomo Filber agreed to testify against the Prime Minister in an investigation involving allegations of bribery and media manipulation. The telecom conglomerate Bezeq is also involved in the investigation. Netanyahu has referred to these investigations as a “witch hunt” and denied all involvement.
Netanyahu was Israel’s deputy chief of mission in Washington (1982), permanent Israeli representative to the UN (1984), deputy foreign minister (1988), and chairman of the Likud party (1992). In 1996, he became Israel’s youngest and first democratically elected Prime Minister. He has been elected Prime Minister of Israel four times and has ruled for a total of 12 years. In September this year, he will become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister. However, whether he will remain in power until September is uncertain. In August 2017, Ari Harow, a member of Netanyahu’s inner circle, agreed to testify against the Prime Minister in an investigation accusing Netanyahu of “fraud, breach of trust, and bribes”. There are three cases currently against Benjamin Netanyahu.
The first is Case 1000 or the “Gifts Affair”, which alleges that the Netanyahu’s family received over £200,000 worth of gifts from billionaires including Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milichan, and Australian entrepreneur James Parker. The police believe that these gifts may have links to Netanyahu’s advocacy of the Milchan Law, which exempts expats returning to the country from taxes for a decade after return. The second “Case 2000” alleges a deal with the publisher of Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, for positive coverage. Netanyahu reportedly promised to hurt the newspaper’s rival in return. Case 3000 or the “Submarine Affair” connects Netanyahu to corruption over a billion-dollar deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp
Schlomo Filber, Netanyahu’s trusted aid, has volunteered to testify against the Prime Minister. Filber had at one point been given the moniker “Black Fox” due to his loyalty to Netanyahu. Filber was arrested on Sunday due to connections to what has been named “Case 4000”. These allegations link him to telecom giant Bezeq. Filber served under Netanyahu during his time as Minister of Communications (2014-2017). He has been charged with granting Bezeq regulatory benefits and subsidiaries in return for positive media coverage. Shaul Elovitch, reportedly a close friend of Netanyahu, owns both Bezeq and online news site Walla. Elovitch and his family have also been arrested on other charges including the fraudulent receipt of funds.
On Tuesday, Israeli media announced that Filber had signed the state’s evidence agreement. “I carried out Netanyahu’s explicit instructions. It wasn’t within my discretion. I received detailed directives. He made it clear who should be taken care of and how,” he reportedly told the police.
In response to these charges, Netanyahu said: "All of the decisions by Bezeq were made by professional committees, with professional experts, with close legal supervision. There is no Wild West here. There are no private decisions here. All decisions are transparent and controlled. And therefore the claim that I acted in favour of Bezeq at the expense of practical considerations is simply baseless." Netanyahu has thus far received support from other members of his coalition. Officials have stated that the Attorney General reserves the right to determine whether Netanyahu can be indicted or not.
Many media and opposition leaders have taken recent developments to be a signal of Netanyahu’s downfall. Head of the opposition Aluf Benn said, “The events of the last two days and recent hours make very clear: the Netanyahu age is over. We must prepare for an election soon.” However, polls have indicated that the public is highly divided on whether Netanyahu should remain in office. Some believe Netanyahu’s time is not over despite these charges.
Our assessment is that Filber’s testimony could be a deadly blow against Benjamin Netanyahu. Some have considered that the Israeli government will attempt to force elections to draw attention away from these charges. Others have speculated the instigation of a limited conflict. We believe that the Israeli Prime Minister is adept at navigating politically sensitive waters. However, even if not indicted, these allegations of corruption could be a permanent stain on Netanyahu’s public image and political career.