In Dramatic Development, Third Netanyahu Confidant Likely to Turn Against Him

Nir Hefetz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s "spin doctor" and confidant, is in talks with police to turn state’s evidence in the bribery case involving the Bezeq telecom giant and the Walla news site. Hefetz is suspected of receiving bribes and obstructing justice as part of what is called Case 4000.

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If the deal is signed, Hefetz will become the third Netanyahu confidant to turn against the prime minister in the ongoing corruption cases. One of Hefetz’s attorneys, Ilan Sofer, told Haaretz Monday he is "optimistic" a deal will be signed.

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Nir Hefetz sits in the Magistrate Court during his remand hearing in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 22, 2018. AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

At the heart of Case 4000 is the suspicion that Netanyahu acted to provide Bezeq and its former chairman, Shaul Elovitch, with financial breaks worth hundreds of millions of shekels in exchange for positive coverage in the telecommunications company’s popular Walla website. The prime minister has rejected the accusations and insisted that all his decisions “were made in businesslike fashion and based on professional factors, professional testimonies and legal counsel.”

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Hefetz testified in the case in December. Since his arrest two weeks ago, he has been questioned under caution not only in the telecom case but also for a suspected bribery offer to a former judge. So far he had refused to answer the investigator’s questions.

Two former Netanyahu confidants have already turned against him. One is former Chief of Staff Ari Harow who testified in cases 2000 and 1000 – which, respectively, relate to discussions of a quid-pro-quo deal with newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes and lavish gifts received from businessmen Arnon Milchan and James Packer.

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The other is Sholmo Filber, former director general of the Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, who is suspected of granting financial benefits to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecom company, on behalf of the prime minister.

Hefetz’s association with Netanyahu began in 2009, when he was appointed chief spokesman for the prime minister, then beginning his second stint in office. Hefetz left in 2011 but returned to work for  Netanyahu in 2014, this time as a media advisor for his family. During the 2015 Knesset election, Hefetz also worked as a campaign strategist for Netanyahu’s Likud party.