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Netanyahu confidant reportedly to testify in corruption case

by Associated Press /

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JERUSALEM — Israeli media reported Wednesday that one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants has turned state witness and will incriminate him in corruption allegations, the latest in a dizzying series of developments that threaten to topple the beleaguered Israeli leader.

Shlomo Filber (left) appears in court in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sunday.Reutersnull

Police would not confirm whether long-time aide Shlomo Filber would testify against Netanyahu, but all the major Israeli media outlets said a deal to do so had been reached.

Filber, the former director of the Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, is under arrest on suspicion of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's Bezeq telecom company. In return, Bezeq's popular news site, Walla, allegedly provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

The reports came shortly after another bombshell allegation that a different longtime confidant attempted to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu's wife.

Netanyahu has denied all the charges, calling them part of a media witch hunt, and has vowed to carry on.

"These are the final days of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule."

"These are the final days of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule."

Still, the string of accusations appears to be taking its toll. Senior Cabinet ministers from his ruling Likud party, who until just recently have marched out dutifully to defend him, have largely gone silent. Netanyahu himself appeared ashen-faced in a video released late Tuesday calling the claims "total madness."

Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of the Haaretz daily, wrote Wednesday that "these are the final days of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule."

Other leading columnists suggested that if Filber told all he knew, Netanyahu was probably more worried about avoiding prison than staying in office.

The latest revelations come days after police announced that there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee, will make the final decision on whether to file charges — a process that is expected to take several months.

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Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu operated on Milchan's behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper's main rival in return for more favorable coverage.

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