First Published: 2018-02-21

Netanyahu confidant to testify against him
Two new corruption investigations, hot on heels of police recommendation for indictment, have fuelled growing speculation Israeli PM could call early election.
Middle East Online

Shlomo Filber (L) sits at the Magistrate Court during his remand in Tel Aviv.

JERUSALEM - One of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants has agreed to testify against him in a graft probe in a fresh blow to his long tenure in power, Israeli media reported Wednesday.

Two new corruption investigations announced this week, hot on the heels of a police recommendation that Netanyahu face charges in two other cases, have fuelled growing speculation he could call an early election.

Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu ally for more than 20 years and a former communications ministry director general, is expected to agree to turn state witness in exchange for avoiding jail, Israeli media reported.

Police did not confirm any deal.

Filber was arrested on Sunday over allegations the owner of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq gave Netanyahu positive coverage on his Walla news site in exchange for policies benefiting the business.

Filber is suspected of mediating between Netanyahu and Elovitch and promoting regulatory changes worth millions to Bezeq.

The prime minister himself has not been named as a suspect in the investigation.

In another case announced this week, two Netanyahu allies are alleged to have offered a judge promotion in exchange for dropping a case against the premier's wife.

The two men have been identified as Nir Hefetz and Eli Kamir, both former media advisers for the Netanyahu family.

Their alleged offer was to Hila Gerstel, a judge involved in a graft probe into Sara Netanyahu over alleged misuse of public funds.

Last week, police said there were grounds to indict the prime minister himself in two other cases for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust.

Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected all the allegations, and released a new video on his Facebook page late Tuesday strongly denying any wrongdoing.

He is due to address American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem later on Wednesday.

While Netanyahu's coalition partners have so far said they will stand by him, Israeli media speculated he might call an early election.

Under the headline "The smell of elections", the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom published a poll suggesting he might even increase his support in parliament despite the allegations hanging over him.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party currently holds 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament, but that could rise to 34 if an election were called today, the poll found.


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