Police Crack Netanyahu's 'Black Box,' and There's No Turning Back

Israel learned in just 12 hours about an attempted bribe to close a case against Sara Netanyahu and that a PM confidant is turning state's evidence

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. February 11, 2018
RONEN ZVULUN/AFP

It’s well known that Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu like to surround themselves with observant Jews. In the view of the prime minister’s wife, which was adopted by her husband of many years, “the religious” are the most loyal aides, the most scrupulous keepers of secrets. In their hearts, the Torah is the Iron Dome that will protect their employers forever. They’ll never stab you in the back or break the code of silence surrounding events at the office or home.

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Tuesday night, a state’s evidence agreement was finalized with Shlomo Filber, who has been a Benjamin Netanyahu loyalist and confidant for more than two decades. Netanyahu’s associates called Filber “the black box” – he could neither be deciphered nor broken.

Filber, the suspended Communications Ministry director general who is suspected of serving as the middleman between the bribe’s taker, Netanyahu, and its giver, media tycoon Shaul Elovitch, is a religious Zionist. But two nights in a cold, stinking cell in the police lockup provided time for some soul-searching and a sober assessment of his future if he didn’t accept the offer to incriminate Netanyahu. 

So he went running to his lawyers. What Shula Zaken did by testifying against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Filber is about to do to Netanyahu on a much larger scale.

>> The final days of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule / Analysis ■ Two bombshells in one day: As police close in on Netanyahu, here's what you need to know

He was preceded in the dubious club of people who turned state’s evidence by Ari Harow (to whom everything said above also applies). Harow was Netanyahu’s chief of staff. His testimony hammered crucial nails into 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. Harow is also an Orthodox Jew, a graduate of a yeshiva high school. The thesis adopted by Sara and Bibi failed them at the moment of truth.

Filber’s testimony is expected to sew up a multimillion-dollar bribery case in which the prime minister allegedly helped telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for favorable coverage from Bezeq’s news website Walla. Netanyahu can now be considered a political corpse. He’s hemmed in from all sides by these three cases. What I wrote here earlier this week is even truer now: He has long since missed the opportunity to escape this legal trap at a relatively low cost by quitting politics and reaching a plea bargain.

He's likely to call an early election in the next few months. But it’s unlikely that he’ll still be head of the Likud party by that time, even less likely that he'd win, and exceedingly unlikely that he’d be able to form a coalition with a conviction and jail time staring him in the face. Netanyahu is en route to becoming a bit of pathetic political and personal history that Israel will try to erase from its collective memory.

The pace of events over the past day has been dizzying. Only in “24,” the television thriller starring agent Jack Bauer, have we ever seen anything comparable.

Tuesday morning we woke up to discover that the gag order had been lifted on the names of the main suspects in the Bezeq case – Elovitch and his relatives, Filber, Nir Hefetz and Stella Handler. Tuesday afternoon Ben Caspit of the daily Maariv broke the explosive story of the attempt to appoint a former district court judge, Hila Gerstl, attorney general, in exchange for closing a case against Sara Netanyahu over financial improprieties at the prime minister’s residences. And that evening we learned about the state’s-evidence deal being discussed with Filber. Twelve hours that left us reeling.

Regarding the incident of Gerstl and Hefetz, the Netanyahu family friend and media adviser who allegedly delivered this despicable, corrupt proposal to her in late 2015, all we can say is “God save us.” If this really happened as the police and prosecution say it did, it’s the Hebron-Bar-On case on steroids. But I must confess it seems extremely unlikely that the prime minister who escaped indictment in that case 21 years ago by the skin of his teeth was actually in on the secret this time around.

Rather, this was apparently a private initiative by Hefetz. Perhaps he was sent by someone else – who very much wanted the case against the lady closed – to explore whether there was room for a deal.

Hefetz got his friend Eli Kamir, a strategic consultant to the top 1 percent, to pass the proposal on to the judge. She rejected it out of hand but didn’t report it to the police as one would expect her to do, apparently because she didn’t want to cause trouble for her good friend Kamir. It’s nothing less than astounding that this filth floated to the surface two years and two months later, when the people involved had already forgotten it.