Netanyahu: Alleged Comments by Filber More ‘Hot Air’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Shlomo Filber, former director general of the Communications Ministry. (Flash90)

In a report Monday night, Hadashot News revealed what it said was a key piece of evidence against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that led police to recommend that he be indicted on corruption charges in the so-called Case 4000, the influence-peddling probe that alleges that he offered his good services to Israeli billionaire Shaul Elovich in return for positive coverage on the Walla news site.

According to the report, former Netanyahu confidant and director general of the Communications Ministry, Shlomo Filber, said that the prime minister told him clearly to act on behalf of Israeli billionaire Shaul Elovich, and to ensure that he was treated “properly.”

If true, the allegation would constitute a “smoking gun,” indicating the Prime Minister’s involvement in a pay-for-play scandal that presented a quid pro quo, in which Elovich directly benefited from Netanyahu’s intervention in government processes in exchange for personal favors. In response to the report, Netanyahu’s attorneys said that the allegations were “nonsense. Because there is no case against Netanyahu they are trying to give an impression as if there is evidence against him. This is nothing but more hot air.”

According to police, Elovich offered Netanyahu a quid pro quo deal of “better coverage” for the Prime Minister on the Walla site if the Prime Minister would help him get out of the financial bind he found himself in. At the heart of the scandal are favors that were allegedly done for Elovich, the majority shareholder in Bezeq and the Walla news site.

The investigation focused on benefits Elovich allegedly received in his efforts to take control of Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage of Netanyahu on the Walla News site. Netanyahu and Elovich met several times during the period that Filber was communications minister, the report said. Police said in the recommendations that a “solid case” existed that Netanyahu actively, and not just passively, aided Elovich by easing regulations on monopolies, which had prevented Bezeq from acquiring the YES satellite organization.

To accomplish that, Netanyahu fired Communications Ministry director general Avi Berger and appointed his loyalist ex-campaign manager Shlomo Filber in order to ensure that government policy improperly favored Elovitch. The positive coverage for Netanyahu was coordinated via Netanyahu’s wife, and Elovitch, his wife, Nir Chefetz, and some of Elovitch’s top Walla employees. Police also recommended that Elovich be tried on bribery charges.

Commenting on the police recommendations, Netanyahu said that they did not surprise him. “The recommendations about myself and my spouse did not surprise anyone, and neither did the timing of his release,” Netanyahu’s Office said in a statement. “These recommendations were set, and leaked, even before the investigation began. These recommendations have no legal standing. Just in recent days the prosecution has dismissed a number of allegations against public servants. I am sure that in this case, after the facts are examined, the same conclusion will be reached – that there was nothing to investigate, because nothing happened.”