Benjamin Netanyahu’s one-time top aide has taken a stand against the former prime minister over allegations of corruption.
JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu’s one-time top aide on Wednesday for the first time took a stand against a former Israeli prime minister accused of corruption in a project to create positive news coverage.
Shlomo Filbar, director of communications under Netanyahu and one of two former associates to testify on behalf of the prosecution, said Netanyahu wanted to “mitigate” the competition for Israel’s Bezek telecom company, a multi-million dollar move. In return, Bezek’s popular news site, Walla, allegedly provided favorable coverage to Netanyahu and his family.
Netanyahu, now the Leader of the Opposition in the Israeli parliament, has denied any wrongdoing, saying allegations of fraud, breach of trust and bribery are a magical prey. But the case has cast a shadow over his family and his legacy as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Philbar described the former Israeli prime minister as “image-obsessed”, as did state witness Nir Nir Hefetz, who turned from a former aide.
“Netanyahu’s hand off, lets you do your job, he’s not involved in the micro. Except when it comes to issues important to him – such as the media, “Philbar testified, in a small court a few feet away with Netanyahu and his family members.” In that case I could get five to six calls a day. “
Netanyahu has been charged in three separate cases. The first allegation was that Netanyahu received gifts worth several thousand dollars from wealthy associates.
In the second case, Netanyahu has been accused of providing positive coverage to a leading Israeli newspaper in exchange for publicizing the law, which could harm a pro-Netanyahu-affiliated daily, the news outlet’s main rival.
Israeli media has dismissed the third case as highly dependent on Philber’s testimony, saying “there can be no 4000 cases without that witness.”
An emotional Philbar told the court Wednesday that it was clear to him that Netanyahu wanted to “calm him down” rather than “eliminate the competition (for Bezek),” then gestured with a hand that suggested a plane landing, according to a pool report. .
“Elovich reached out to me and told me there was a problem with his ministry, a consultant who was setting the wrong price,” Philbar said, describing the message, “Don’t stop competing, but see if you can control it.”
Asked if what Netanyahu told him would help Elovich, Philbar replied, “Yes,” adding that the former prime minister had “50 shades of gray” in how he approached his request.
Pressed, Philber said he saw Netanyahu’s directive as an “action item” that he needed to act quickly.
Echoes of the testimony of Netanyahu’s family spokesman Neir Hefetz, Philbar, as the main envoy between Netanyahu and Elovich. Hefetz said Ilovich’s wife, Iris, had personally taken control of the news site.
“Netanyahu’s website had the most control, including what the title would be, where it would be on the home page,” Hepheastion said. “I thought the Elovichs were doing a good job.”
Hefetz told the court last year that Netanyahu was a “control maniac” for his public image and that he “spent at least as much time in the media as he did on conservation.”