Netanyahu Talked Iran to U.S. Jewish Leaders, but Silence on Corruption Probes Was Louder

Prime minister's speech to Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations met with loud applause ■ Shlomo Filber struck a deal with police for lighter sentence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony in Ashkelon, February 20, 2018.
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked about a rising anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East on Wednesday when he addressed a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, which is visiting Jerusalem this week.

The prime minister blasted the nuclear deal that Iran signed with six world powers in 2015, saying that it "increased Iran’s aggression, and that is why it’s so dangerous."

"You can estimate that tens of billions of dollars are going into Iran’s coffers every year" since sanctions have been loosened, he said. "If this deal is not changed, then Iran will have free course to walk into a nuclear arsenal. They’ll be able to enrich uranium on an unlimited scale."

Netanyahu called Iran "the most destructive force in the Middle East, and all the other forces understand this and there’s a natural banding together, because there are constructive forces in the region." He added that it was very important to engage these forces.

The prime minister talked about the desire in the Middle East and globally for Israel's "technological prowess," especially in the fields of security and agriculture. He said that since his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan's investment in Israel has grown twentyfold, to loud applause. Netanyahu also mentioned his recent visits to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and India, where he said Israeli technology is helping farmers increase yields.

"Everyone is threatened by Islamic terrorism," said the prime minister. "The possibilities in the Middle East by the constructive forces are vast."

Netanyahu's speech comes after his close confidant, Shlomo Filber, struck a deal with the police on Tuesday evening to turn state's evidence in exchange for a lighter sentence in a case looking into the ties of Israel's telecom giant Bezeq with government officials.

Filber was arrested Sunday on suspicion of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice in the so-called Case 4000.

At least two senior officials close to Netanyahu are suspected of working behind the scenes to influence regulations in Bezeq’s favor in the case. These officials supposedly pressured the Communications Ministry to promote regulatory measures that would benefit Bezeq – including the approval of Bezeq’s acquisition of the satellite television broadcaster Yes.

Filber, who held the post of director general of the Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, testified on Tuesday on how the ministry acted to help Bezeq, and about the prime minister's ties with the firm's controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch.

Filber is suspected of granting financial benefits to Elovitch on behalf of the prime minister. In return, Elovitch apparently skewed coverage on the Walla news website he owns to favor Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

Filber's testimony is likely to establish the nature of the compensation given by the prime minister for the slanted coverage he received on Walla.