In Deal With Police, Former Netanyahu Aide to Hand Over Recordings of Netanyahu and Wife

Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu's spin doctor, becomes a state witness ■ Hefetz is suspected of bribery and obstruction of justice in the telecom corruption affair

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Nir Hefetz sits in the Magistrate Court during his remand hearing in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 22, 2018.
Nir Hefetz sits in the Magistrate Court during his remand hearing in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 22, 2018. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Nir Hefetz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "spin doctor" and confidant, will hand over recordings of Netanyahu and his wife Sara as part of a deal with police to turn state's evidence in the bribery case involving the Bezeq telecom giant and the Walla news site.

Netanyahu, currently in the U.S. for AIPAC and a meeting with Trump, received the news at the Blair House, where he is a guest of the White House.

In return for testifying against Netanyahu, Hefetz will not stand trial, face prison time or be fined. While he testifies, he will be housed at an isolated installation.

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Nir Hefetz, Shlomo Filber, and Ari Harow.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem, Moti Milrod

According to assessments regarding the deal, Hefetz will also give information regarding the other cases against the prime minister and his wife.

Hefetz is the third Netanyahu confidant to turn against the prime minister in the ongoing corruption cases. Hefetz is suspected of receiving bribes and obstructing justice as part of what is called Case 4000. He is also a key figure in 1270, and is second fiddle in Case 2000.

In Case 4000, Hefetz liaised between the Netanyahu couple and the Walla news website, owned by Bezeq. Hefetz arranged for flattering items on the couple and censorship of less flattering items, Haaretz's Gidi Weitz reported.

In Case 1270, Hefetz allegedly served as the prime minister's confidant who sought to elucidate how Judge Hila Gerstl felt about closing a case against Sara Netanyahu. Allegedly a trial balloon was floated, hinting to Gerstl that she would be promoted to Israel's next attorney-general if she closed the case down. Hefetz claims that it all boiled down to idle chatter and hadn't been coordinated with the prime minister and his wife.

In Case 2000, Hefetz had involvement on both sides of the coin. He was head of public relations for Netanyahu, before which he served as senior editor in the Yedioth Ahronoth group, owned by Arnon Mozes. In 2009, Mozes is suspected of agreeing to provide sweetheart coverage of Netanyahu, who in turn allegedly promised to get the rival (free) newspaper Israel Hayom to stop printing a weekend edition, which stood to hugely benefit Yedioth.

Channel 10 reports that Hefetz will be providing information on other cases – some of which the public hasn't even heard of yet.

Netanyahu aides said in response to Hefetz that "when there is something, you don't need even one state's witness. When you don't have anything, even a thousand state witnesses won't help."

"The incessant race after state witnesses is the best proof that there is nothing – and there will be nothing," they added.

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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.”

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.

Hefetz, Haaretz has learned, will testify that he never received orders from Sara or Benjamin Netanyahu to make the offer to the judge, allegedly made through an intermediary. Hefetz will claim that the talks with Eli Kamir, the alleged conduit, were just "empty words."

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.

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.

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