Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
It may be six months, a year or more before the attorney-general lets us know his decision regarding the five probes linked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But looking back from whatever that decision is, Friday will be viewed as the decisive day.
With one of his former top aides, Shlomo Filber, directly accusing him of criminality, the prime minister’s back is finally against the wall.
Filber has said that Netanyahu masterminded a scheme of pushing policies favoring Bezeq in exchange for positive media coverage by the Walla news site, and directed him to carry it out as director-general of the Communications Ministry.
Netanyahu had already taken many blows with Arnon Milchan’s secretary turning against him, his former top aide Ari Harow turning state’s witness, the police recommending indicting him for bribery in two separate cases, half-a-dozen of his top aides under pressure to turn on him and other shots to the abdomen.
But in none of these cases had a top aide actually directly accused him of a crime and a crime about which they had personal knowledge.
Until now, he could claim a variety of policy reasons and alibis to explain his allegedly corrupt behavior, and all of them had a decent chance of poking a hole in the beyond a reasonable doubt standard one needs to meet to prove a crime.
He can’t do that on Friday. On Friday, he will need to call Filber a liar and explain, plausibly, why Filber would accuse him of a crime.
He will face detailed accounts of his conversations with Filber and with others that police could not ask him about until Filber spilled the beans.
Whatever he says will be locked in on him forever.
It was this similar point when former prime minister Ehud Olmert made mistakes responding to aides and partners who had inside information on him, which the judges who dealt with him eventually found untruthful and led to the courts preferring the prosecution’s narrative over his.
These detailed insider accounts are the hardest for a person to talk their way out of coherently.
The police know the high stakes. So important is this interrogation to their case that they are pulling out all of the stops.
They demanded Netanyahu get interrogated before his upcoming US trip, have extended former aide Nir Hefetz’s detention primarily to prevent the two from coordinating, and may even interrogate the prime minister at the same time as Sara Netanyahu, separately, to avoid their coordinating answers.
The second that Filber pointed the finger at Netanyahu, the tone emanating from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s office changed, and the resistance to jumping to conclusions about Netanyahu’s fate became much more limited.
It is now understood that unless Netanyahu somehow pulls a rabbit out of a hat and manages a triple Axel jump against a top aide – a feat defendants rarely manage to land – the decision of whom to believe between Netanyahu and Filber will need to go to a judge. In that case, the prime minister may end up not just with his back to the wall, but facing prison time.