Israeli media: Confidant to testify against Netanyahu in corruption probe

Israeli media: Confidant to testify against Netanyahu in corruption probe
Major Israeli media outlets have reported that a deal had been reached by the former director of the Communications Ministry to testify against the Israeli leader.
3 min read
21 February, 2018
The allegations bring another headache for the embattled prime minister [Getty]

One of the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's closest confidants has turned into a state witness and will testify against him in the corruption allegation, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

It is the latest in a series of developments that threaten to topple the beleaguered leader.

No confirmation was made by the police whether long-time aide Shlomo Fiber would testify, but all major Israeli media outlets reported a deal had been reached for Fiber to testify against Netanyahu.

The former communications ministry director under Netanyahu was placed under arrest on suspicion of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's Bezeq telecom company.

Walla - Bezeq's popular news site - reportedly provided favourable coverage of Netanyahu and his family in return.

The reports are the latest in a series of shocking allegations. On Tuesday, the prime minister faced yet another scandal with allegations that a different long-time confidant attempted to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against the Israeli leader's wife.

The prime minister may soon be questioned, although he has not been named suspect yet. Netanyahu has denied all charges, calling them part of a media witch hunt.

The accusations however appear to have taken a toll, with senior cabinet ministers who had previously been outspoken in their defence, have largely gone silent.

In a video released late Tuesday, Netanyahu appeared ashen and described the claims 'total madness'.

Haaretz daily's editor-in-chief, Aluf Benn, wrote "these are the final days of Netanyahu's rule" on Wednesday. Other leading columnists suggested that Netanyahu's worries probably stretched more than remaining in office if Filber was to reveal everything he knew.

The cases gave new fuel to opposition calls for Netanyahu to step aside as he fights a growing list of corruption scandals.

Netanyahu dismissed the investigations as "delusional, fabricated claims" that are part of an "orchestrated campaign" against him and vowed to "continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly, discreetly and with great dedication".

Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid Party, said that if Netanyahu doesn't want to resign, he should at least declare himself "incapacitated", allowing a caretaker prime minister to be appointed.

"Israel deserves a full-time prime minister who is not engaged in anything else. Let him choose whatever path is convenient for him," Lapid said.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

In return, police say Netanyahu operated on Milchan's behalf on US visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper's main rival in return for more favourable coverage.

Netanyahu has long accused the Israeli press corps of being biased against him and has taken steps to counter it by promoting more sympathetic outlets.

Netanyahu's backers have also lashed out at police, accusing them of an overzealous campaign to topple him.