Public Trust in Israel's Police Crumbles, as State Witness in Key Netanyahu Case Gets Grilled

© JACK GUEZFormer Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu  - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.05.2022
Shlomo Filber, a former director-general of the Ministry of Information, admitted in court that the police threatened him and warned him not to say anything that would exonerate the former premier. "They were forcibly putting words in my mouth," he said, insisting that neither he nor Netanyahu broke the law.
Tuesday was a stormy day in Jerusalem when former director-general of the Ministry of Information, Shlomo Filber, was cross-examined by the defence attorney of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Filber is state witness in what is purported to be a bribery scandal known as Case 4,000.
The prosecution alleges that Filber was acting for Netanyahu when he rubber-stamped the merger between two telecom businesses, Bezeq and Yes, in violation of public trust. Netanyahu is further accused of giving tax concessions to Bezeq's former owner, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on Walla!, a news website that used to belong to Elovitch.
Filber has cooperated with the prosecution throughout the investigation.

Dropping Bombs

At the court on Tuesday, Filber made two astounding claims: first; that the merger of Bezeq and Yes was handled correctly and had nothing to do with Netanyahu; and second, that investigators had been intent on getting "the head of the former PM", and had threatened and intimidated him to tell the prosecution team what they wanted to hear. Otherwise, he said, he would be charged with corruption, an allegations neither he nor Netanyahu has ever accepted.

"I felt [the police] were forcibly putting words in my mouth," said Filber.

"They came and told me that I needed to say that Netanyahu directed me to conduct the merger ... [but] whatever I did at the Ministry of Information was not dictated by Netanyahu ... I was not aware of any link between him and Elovitch," he noted.

Anger is Boiling

In the wake of his revelations, Israelis took to social media to vent their rage at the police and the prosecution.
"So today it turns out that it was not only [former attorney-general, Avichai] Mandelblit, [former state attorney, Shai] Nitzan, and [chief prosecutor in the case, Liat] Ben-Ari who plotted to get Netanyahu. The police interrogators cooperated too," said one tweet referring to Filber's claims that a police officer had demanded "the head of Netanyahu and Elovitch".

"What's happening now in Filber's testimony is something I can't remember happening before. The prosecution witness, the state witness, the prosecution's most powerful card, smashes Case 4000 to pieces. It's unbelievable," wrote another.

"Filber's testimony should shatter the country. It is now clear, even to the most gullible, that this was a conspiracy to overthrow Netanyahu. In any proper state, Mandelblit and Nitzan would be questioned under caution ... we won't give up until this happens," a third tweeter promised.
A fourth tweet said: "Today, I am ashamed of my country having learnt that the police interrogation of Filber was guided by the prosecution".

Distrust in the System

Netanyahu has long said that the cases against him were plotted by Israel's liberal elite, and executed by the police and the prosecution with the intention of driving him out of office.
Liberals deny these charges but, given Filber's account of what happened, public trust in the authorities is beginning to crack.
In January, a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute revealed that only 29 percent of Israelis had faith in the police, an unprecedentedly low level.
Another one showed that 46 percent of those asked said they didn't trust the prosecution, the judiciary or the police.
Netanyahu's treatment is not the only reason for public mistrust: for years Israelis have witnessed a series of scandals that shattered their faith in the authorities, such as the as yet unsolved murder of 13-year-old girl, Tair Rada in 2006, where the prosecution has allegedly convicted the wrong person to cover up its failings. There was also the Pegasus spyware debacle when the police allegedly planted snooping software into the phones of politicians, journalists and activists, without securing the court's consent.
Now, as the prosecution's case starts to crumble, public trust weakens further.
However, there are still many Israelis who don't believe the state conspired to oust a sitting prime minister from office. To them, Filber is a criminal whose version of events changes as he sees fit, and Netanyahu is a "crime minister" who should be jailed.
Everything is up in the air, and it will take the court years to discover the truth.
Netanyahu is at present facing three charges of bribery: in case 1000, he is accused of receiving gifts from a rich donor; and in cases 2000 and 3000, he is charged with obtaining positive media coverage unlawfully.
Netanyahu denies all charges.
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