What flipped key state’s witness against Netanyahu in Case 4000? - analysis

In one of the narratives, the police used any and all means.

By
September 2, 2019 20:06
3 minute read.
THE FALSE narratives about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also make the establishment of a unity

THE FALSE narratives about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also make the establishment of a unity government with the Center-Left impossible. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

There are two narratives about why Shlomo Filber – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 campaign chairman, confidante and Communications Ministry director-general – turned state’s witness against him in February 2018.

Filber’s switching sides was an earthquake in the changes it triggered.

It changed Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit from a doubter into supporting indicting Netanyahu for bribery.

It led another close Netanyahu adviser and confidante, Nir Hefetz, to switch in a matter of days from staunch loyalist to becoming another key state’s witness against the prime minister.

Ultimately, it was probably the point that transformed Netanyahu’s political fortunes and will determine his legal fate.

But why did Filber switch?

For half-a-year, since July 2017, Filber had denied wrongdoing and remained so loyal to the prime minister that even in November 2017 when it was announced that he would be indicted, and with no charges against Netanyahu, he did not crack.

On Monday, Yisrael Hayom provided one explanation.

Leaking the portions of Filber’s testimony to police right before he had turned, the report noted Filber accusing the police of “a million man race” to bring down Netanyahu by grabbing at anyone who was close to him.

Filber told the police that they would never have bothered with him if they were not trying to bring down the prime minister at all costs.

His message was that he and Netanyahu had done nothing wrong, and that they were trying to blackmail him into turning on Netanyahu despite their being no basis to do so.

In this narrative, the police used any and all means, even possibly illegal, to pressure confidantes of Netanyahu to turn on him and even manufacture crimes that the prime minister did not commit.

But there is another narrative.

At the time that Filber turned state’s witness, it was leaked that what turned him was listening to recordings of Walla! CEO Ilan Yeshua speaking to Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch about the scheme to skew coverage positively in the prime minister’s favor.

The Justice Ministry repeatedly refused to comment for this story and the leaks. It never clarified whether Filber was converted because he then learned for the first time how wide the media bribery scheme was or whether the recordings convinced him that Netanyahu was going down anyway, and that all loyalty would get him at this point was a jail cell next to his former boss.

Either way, Filber decided in February 2018 to turn state’s witness.

According to a recent Channel 12 report, Filber told police right after turning state’s witness that it was as if a cloud had been lifted from him and that he could finally think straight and be true to his conscience for the first time in years.

He said that he knew from the start that orders he was given by Netanyahu to make policy changes in favor of Elovitch were a “national disaster,” but that he was caught up in the glory of his new title and power, and went along with his role in the scheme.

Netanyahu’s lawyer, Amit Hadad, has previously told The Jerusalem Post that one way they will hammer apart the case against the prime minister is to show a long string of tweets by Filber rejecting the charges against him and Netanyahu.

Hadad has noted that many of the tweets were highly specific and provided significant data to combat the charges, such that they could not be mere passive lying and loyalty, but needed to be true.

Convincing a trial court that Filber made up allegations to save his own skin will be a tough sell, both because of how in-depth Filber got in detailing the charges against the prime minister and because of the other state’s witnesses who turned.

But doing that convincing will be Netanyahu’s only chance at winning a likely future trial, and the Yisrael Hayom report is a window into what that strategy will look like.


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