Government Stability Questioned Amidst Legal Developments

Rumors Abound of Early Elections

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21 Feb 2018 (All day)
Government Stability Questioned Amidst Legal Developments
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal troubles took a dramatic turn on Tuesday evening when Shlomo Filber, a close political ally of the Prime Minister and the former Communications Ministry Director-General, reportedly signed an agreement with the Justice Ministry to testify against him in return for leniency in his own sentencing on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and other offenses. Opposition parties immediately announced plans to prepare for early elections, although the Justice Ministry had not confirmed or denied any reports by press time.

Filber is a key figure in the so-called Case 4000 police investigation against Netanyahu, also known as the “Bezeq Affair” involving suspicions that Netanyahu pushed for legislation in the Knesset that would have been helpful to the Bezeq telecommunications company in exchange for favorable coverage on the Walla news site, both of which are owned by business mogul Shaul Elovitch. Elovitch was arrested earlier this week in connection with the case, along with Bezeq CEO Stella Handler and another long-time Netanyahu confidant, Nir Hefetz.

Several former government officials, along with senior employees of Bezeq and Walla have been questioned in connection with the case over recent days.

“This is outrageous,” Netanyahu said in a video he posted on Facebook Tuesday evening. “They are bringing two hallucinatory, false claims as part of the witch-hunt against me and my family – that has been going on for years. Regarding Bezeq – all that the decisions on Bezeq are made by professional committees, by officials with close legal supervision. This is not the Wild West. We cannot make our own calls. All the decisions are transparent and being looked over. That’s why the claim that I acted in favor of Bezeq at the expense of professional considerations is baseless…it could no longer be ignored that this is a witch-hunt.”

“When the air runs out of [police cases] 1000 [the ‘gifts affair’] and 2000 [the ‘Yediot Aharonot affair’], and when we found out that in [case] 3000 [the ‘submarine affair’] there was no air in the first place – they create new cases. They create a case every two hours,” he said. “They bring associates, they questioned them. Later we see a flood of false leaks, and we know what their goal is – to force the creation of a ‘cloud of suspicions’ over the head of the prime minister.”

However, the Zionist Union and Meretz factions both announced steps on Wednesday to prepare for early elections.

“The events of the last two days and recent hours make very clear: The Netanyahu age is over. We must prepare for an election soon," Zionist Union party leader Avi Gabbay wrote Tuesday night in a letter to party MKs. “The criminal house of cards the prime minister built in recent years - corrupting the civil service, harming the rule of law, threatening freedom of the press and more than all else, dividing Israeli society - is crashing down on him and around him.”