Benjamin Netanyahu has been unfit to make security decisions for Israel since September 2017, prosecution star witness (and former top Netanyahu aide) Nir Hefetz testified before the Jerusalem District Court on Monday at the former prime minister’s public corruption trial.
Most of Monday was spent by Netanyahu defense lawyer Boaz Ben Tzur continuing to tear into the police for their harsh tactics to flip Hefetz against his former boss.
Ben Tzur presented a mix of video and transcript material showing police trying to get Hefetz to fire his lawyer, threatening him with jail time, playing mind games and generally trying to get him to cut an immunity deal as a prosecution witness.
In fact, Ben Tzur even got Hefetz to admit that he felt so oppressed that he had considered suicide and that – at least during his questioning – he believed he was unjustly being used as a pawn for a politicized police crusade against Netanyahu.
Yet, Hefetz eventually cut a deal on March 5, 2018, after 15 days of detention when he received “absolute immunity” from the state.
According to the star witness’s current narrative, he cut the deal after lying for years to protect Netanyahu, and despite all of the pressures on him, all of the police’s problematic tactics were designed to get him to finally tell the truth.
But unexpectedly, in the late afternoon, Hefetz went after Netanyahu politically.
Ben Tzur tried to embarrass Hefetz about the fact that after turning state’s witness he had told his interrogators they were missing a much bigger Netanyahu scandal endangering state security.
The defense lawyer remarked that the police had ignored Hefetz, had not followed up on the issue and had not respected his judgment.
Then Hefetz let loose, saying, “I left my job working for Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2017 because I thought he was no longer fit to make security decisions due to the situation around him [referring to the criminal trial distraction]. I stand by this, that to this day he is unfit to hold Israel’s security in his hands because of his situation. This is worse than a criminal issue. This could have ended with thousands of dead people.”
Hefetz was referring to an incident in 2017 when Netanyahu went against the advice of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and in favor of the police, to put metal detectors for Palestinians on the Temple Mount after a terrorist incident.
The Shin Bet had warned that other measures could handle the uptick in security challenges, but that bringing in metal detectors would lead to a backlash that would destabilize the situation far more.
In the end, the agency’s prediction was correct and Netanyahu removed the metal detectors, yet only after the situation had already become far more inflamed.
Hefetz alleged that Netanyahu’s decision was unduly influenced by his family members and a variety of emotional pressures relating to the various criminal probes.
Realizing the potential political harm from this statement, Ben Tzur quickly asked Hefetz if he had sat in on any of the security meetings with Netanyahu in 2017, and he replied that he had not since 2010.
A spokesman for Netanyahu then issued a statement negating Hefetz’s judgment on the issue since he was not present to witness how Netanyahu acted during the security meetings.
However, Hefetz has testified that he spoke to Netanyahu as often as 10 times a day about virtually all topics, even if some specific classified details were left out.