After a nearly four-month hiatus, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend Wednesday’s testimony of a former top aide in the public corruption trial against him at the Jerusalem District Court.
Shlomo Filber, who served as Netanyahu’s Communications Ministry director-general before turning state’s witness in 2018, was once Netanyahu’s campaign manager and, allegedly, one of the lead managers of his media bribery scheme in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair.
Netanyahu has not attended the ongoing hearings since the start of the testimony of Nir Hefetz, another former top aide who turned state’s witness, last November. Previously, he had attended a small number of hearings in April 2021 and in 2020.
Along with Hefetz, who previously testified, Filber is one of the prosecution’s two main witnesses who can directly finger Netanyahu as the alleged mastermind of the Bezeq-Walla Affair.
If Hefetz provided the prosecution’s narrative for allegations against Netanyahu on the Walla side of the case, Filber is expected to close the circle by providing the prosecution’s narrative on the Bezeq side.
In fact, Filber’s testimony could be so damaging that avoiding his testimony was one of many reasons why Netanyahu was hoping to cut a deal with former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit before the end of January, when Mandelblit’s term ended.
Many defendants attend their entire trial, hoping to get pointers for when they themselves must take the stand or possibly even to intimidate a witness from going against them when they see the defendant in person.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was much more present at his various trials than Netanyahu has been.
Former Communications Ministry director-general Avi Berger has testified that he repeatedly stuck to his guns on the conditions for a YES-Bezeq merger and ignored Netanyahu’s messengers, whom he said were advocating problematic policies.
The prosecution has presented evidence that this made Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch furious, which he asked Hefetz to pass on to the then-prime minister.
Following Hefetz’s passing that on to Netanyahu, Filber is expected to testify that on May 17, 2015, as soon as Netanyahu formed a new government, he fired Berger and replaced him with Filber to carry out Elovitch’s wishes regarding Bezeq.
He was confirmed for his post on June 7, 2015, and he is expected to testify that shortly after that he was called to a special meeting with Netanyahu, during which the scheme was hatched.
There has been some heightened controversy in recent days, suggesting that Filber may look for ways to compliment Netanyahu and water down his allegations due to his wish to rehabilitate his image in the sphere of right-wing politics.
Allegedly, there was even previously a plot by certain Netanyahu aides to intimidate Filber into recanting his allegations against Netanyahu.
However, he is still expected to make a number of damaging claims against Netanyahu that will secure some of the prosecution’s main goals.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is expected to confront Filber with years of his own statements he made defending the former prime minister’s conduct, as well as statements lambasting the police as allegedly going after Filber unjustly, simply to manufacture a case to bring down his boss.