The Walls Are Closing In On Israeli PM 'Bibi' Netanyahu

The Walls Are Closing In On Israeli PM 'Bibi' Netanyahu

According to a new report in The Guardian, controversial Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu may have the appearance of a ‘made man’ — one of those political elitists rendered untouchable by the enormity of their power — but his luck is now resting on borrowed time, knifed in the back by a former trusted associate turned state witness ready to give up the dirt in a court of law.

It only took a week for state police to put the career of Israel’s second-longest serving state leader in jeopardy. Shortly after recommending the man be brought up on bribery charges and breach of trust heading into his 11th year in top office, police have now secured the testimony of Shlomo Filber, the suspended communications director-general for Bibi’s Communications Ministry and former bureau chief until around 2003.

Reports indicate shortly after his arrest, Filber agreed to assist police investigations into the ever-growing scandals surrounding the Israeli prime minister, including the man’s alleged acceptance of international billionaires’ overtly lavish gifts (cigars, pink champagne, jewellery for his wife), the government’s relationship with national telecom giant Bezeq and whether associates bribed a judge to drop a criminal investigation involving the prime minister’s spouse, Sara Netanyahu.

As the man we being interrogated, Israeli police managed to successfully arrest several of the prime minister’s closest friends and associates. Bezeq’s controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other top Bezeq executives who are suspects in the investigation.

According to The Guardian, former journalists at Walla, one of the largest Hebrew-language news websites in the country, have said they were pressured to refrain from negative reporting on Netanyahu — with company CEO Ilan Yeshua reportedly handing the police recordings between the telecom owner and the director-general.

Filber was arrested on Tuesday over allegations that he offered regulatory policy potentially worth millions in extra revenue for a subsidiary news site under the Bezeq giant, in exchange for favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his family — the evidence that could prove a quid pro quo between the Netanyahu government and the fourth estate.

Shlomo Filber

According to The Times of Israel’s police sources, it was these recordings of their damning words that reportedly broke Filber, bringing him to the negotiating table and willing to give information to police and testify in court in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution. It’s expected that another associate to the prime minister, Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu spokesman, may reach a similar deal to save face.

As the country waited anxiously for the prime minister’s response, Netanyahu held a press conference in Jerusalem vehemently denying the charges, vowing to remain the leader of Israel should he survive this opposition:

“I will continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly and loyally as long as you, the citizens of Israel, choose me to lead you.

I am sure that the truth will come to light. And I am sure that also in the next election that will take place on time I will win your trust again, with God’s help. These recommendations mean nothing in a democratic society.”

Morbidly speaking, the prime minister might be right.

Around 21-years-ago, just a few months into 1997 after Netanyahu had entered his first term, the man was also staring down the barrel of criminal indictments for breach of public trust and corruption charges for influence-peddling. He was accused of appointing an attorney general who would reduce criminal charges against certain Netanyahu political allies should they fall in trouble. State prosecutors, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence to go to trial.

When investigated again during the 1999 election, facing off against winning candidate Ehud Barak, no charges were brought up in a case of fraud — where Netanyahu was accused of ordering $100,000 services from a government contractor who he supposedly did not pay. Israel’s attorney general did not prosecute, citing “difficulties” with evidence (which seems like a bullshit way of saying hear no shekels, see no shekels.)

Modern police, on the other hand, have their work cut out for them — 100 interviewed witnesses, around 700 state gifts alleged to be in the illegal possession of the Netanyahu family, an estimated one million shekels, or $282,000 USD, from the likes of Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan - the list goes on.

In a statement, police believe the prime minister gave the producer of Pretty Woman and Fight Club assistance on United States-Israel visa issues and access to Israeli tax breaks , in return receiving gifts that are estimated to be valued at around 750,000 shekels, or $208,300 USD.

Bibi, of course, thinks he can either buy or talk his way out of this one like always —the Israeli top dog berating the police force for months regarding “bias,” saying a top investigator on the case, Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, the current head of the anti-fraud unit, should have recused himself from his investigation (failing to cite a valid reason why).

So, the question remains — is Bibi’s game of power over?

As Politico notes, other Prime Ministers haven’t survived the toxicity of police investigations, which is what happened to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he lost his coalition more than a decade ago. When he was a more principled opposition leader, Netanyahu said of the man:

“A prime minister who is sunk up to his neck in investigations has no moral and public mandate.”

Avi Gabbay, current leader of the Israeli Labour Party, seized on the prime minister’s former stance from 2008, declaring:

“The events of the last two days and recent hours make very clear: the Netanyahu age is over.

We must prepare for an election soon.

The criminal house of cards the prime minister built in recent years — corrupting the civil service, harming the rule of law, threatening freedom of the press and more than all else, dividing Israeli society — is crashing down on him and around him.”

A poll by Channel 10 found that 66% of Israelis believed the premier should resign when, at the time, indictments were still an open question. The possibility of a challenger from the left or right increases by the day. The walls are closing in on the nationalist prime minister, proving that you can’t buy and talk your way out of everything.