Netanyahu Blasts Police: State Witnesses Are Told That Only Way Out Is to Smear Me

The premier slammed the police for recruiting his confidants as state witnesses against him; law enforcement officials retorted that the PM was in fact underhandedly attacking the attorney general

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on  March 5, 2018.

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized the police Wednesday for recruiting his confidants as state witnesses in the corruption cases against him.

"They're taking people they claim committed some offense," Netanyahu wrote in Hebrew on his Facebook page. 

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"They take them into detention, terrify them and tell them: 'Your life is over, your family's life is over. We'll take everything from you, including your freedom. You want to get out of this? There's one way – smear Netanyahu. It doesn't matter if you tell the truth – the main thing is you smear Netanyahu.'"

The prime minister repeated comments made by his associates earlier this week, including "when there is something real, there is no need for a single state witness, and when there is nothing, not a thousand state witnesses will help."

Responding to Netanyahu's comments, law enforcement officials said later on Wednesday evening that the statements the premier made against the police and his former confidants who have become state witnesses were actually an assault on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. "The entity that approves agreements with state witnesses is the attorney general," the sources said. "Especially in the case of the prime minister. He, too, is aware that Case 1000 and Case 2000 are closed and Case 4000 is about to be closed as well, so the assaults are mostly a message for whoever approved the agreement."

The officials added that "Nir Hefetz didn't sign the agreement when he was in the prison cell, he signed it when he was already back in his home in Ra'anana. No one forced him to sign the agreement, so it's not surprising that people sign state witness agreements because they don't want to pay the price for something they haven't done."

Hefetz, a former chief spokesman for Netanyahu, made a deal with the police Sunday to turn state's evidence in a bribery case involving Israeli telecom giant Bezeq. In the case, dubbed Case 4000, Hefetz allegedly liaised between the Netanyahus and Bezeq's Walla news website. According to the police, Hefetz arranged for flattering items on the couple and censorship of less flattering items, in return for benefits for Bezeq.

Hefetz agreed to hand over recordings of Netanyahu and wife Sara as part of his deal with the police. 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 location.

Hefetz is one of a number of Netanyahu confidants to turn against the prime minister in five corruption cases plaguing him.