In a dramatic development in one of the corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu's former spokesman, agreed on Monday to turn state's witness in Case 4,000 in exchange for immunity.
Case 4,000 centers on potentially illicit dealings and conflict of interest involving Israeli telecom corporation Bezeq and the Walla news website, which Bezeq owns. The police allege that Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch ensured positive coverage by Walla for Netanyahu, in exchange for the prime minister promoting government regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the company.
Hefetz is the second state's witness in the case. Former Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filber, considered a key associate of the prime minister, turned state's witness last month in exchange for immunity.
The information implicating Hefetz, one of the prime minister's closest confidants, in case 4,000, came to light as part of a police investigation into allegations that in 2015, Hefetz, through strategic adviser Eli Kamir, offered former Judge Hila Gerstel a quid pro quo in which Netanyahu would appoint her attorney general in exchange for her closing a case in which his wife, Sara, was alleged to have abused public funds.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in case 4,000 and maintains he had no knowledge of any offer made to Gerstel.
Hefetz is also expected to provide information on two other corruption investigations involving the prime minister: Case 1,000, which centers on gifts Netanyahu allegedly received from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer; and Case 2,000, which focuses on an illicit deal Netanyahu allegedly tried to strike with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to ensure positive newspaper coverage.
According to Hadashot evening news, Hefetz, who for years was the strongman in the Prime Minister's Office and later served as the Netanyahu family's personal spokesman, told associates he resigned his position over the "overwhelming influence" Sara and Yair Netanyahu have on the prime minister's decision-making process.
"Yair has caused harm to both his father and the country. That's why I left in October 2017. I understood that the Bibi [Netanyahu] era was over, that he would be indicted with or without me. I was opposed to his attacks on the police and law enforcement," Hefetz said.
Channel 10 News reported that Hefetz plans to testify about two security-related incidents in which Netanyahu wend against the recommendations of the directors of the Shin Bet security agency and Mossad, deferring instead to advice from his wife and son.
"I admire Bibi, but he is captivated by his wife and son. They influence him when it comes to matters of state," he said.
The Prime Minister's Office dismissed Hefetz's potential testimony.
"The statements attributed to Nir Hefetz with respect to Sara and Yair Netanyahu are nonsense. Hefetz has not had access to any intelligence on security, diplomatic or state matters for over seven years, nor has he been made part of the decision-making process on these issues. For this reason, his statements are baseless.
"The only intelligence briefing Hefetz was privy to in recent years involved the medical condition of the Netanyahus' dog. His statements are nonsense. We can't be held responsible for what he thinks."
One associate of the prime minister lambasted the fact that the police were able to turn Hefetz state's witness, saying, "When you have a real case, you don’t need state witnesses, and when you don't, 1,000 of them won't do you any good. The [police's] constant chase after state witnesses is proof that nothing will come of this because nothing happened."
The opposition was quick to criticize the prime minister.
"There isn't a single person in the country that thinks the prime minister really cares about the draft bill or the state budget," Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said, referring to the recent coalition crisis.
"All he cares about is the police investigations and how to stop them. The coalition crisis has nothing to do with principles or values. It's about a group of cynical politicians who don’t care about the public. All they care about is headlines.
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay said, "Once we win the elections, we'll clean house. We won't have corruption."