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'They are selling you out, and you're just protecting them'

With Netanyahu in court, Filber says police called him a ‘sucker’ for not talking

State’s witness explains testimony discrepancies, says things that sounded trivial to him at the time later took on new meaning, and he realized he was in over his head

Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for his trial at the District Court in Jerusalem, May 10, 2022 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)
Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for his trial at the District Court in Jerusalem, May 10, 2022 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was in court on Tuesday to hear the continued cross-examination of his former confidant Shlomo Filber, who told the court that police investigators initially lambasted him for being a “sucker” for refusing to speak at the start of the interrogation process.

It was the first time Netanyahu was in the courtroom for his corruption trial in about a month.

“I was told, ‘Open your mouth, start talking, you’re a sucker. They’ve done a number on you. They are selling you out, and you’re just protecting them,'” recalled former Communications Ministry director Shlomo Filber, who later turned state witness. It was unclear who specifically the investigators were referring to.

Filber explained to the court the reason for some discrepancies in his testimony, and described his tactics during the police interrogation.

“I started to realize that I’m in over my head. And at this point I started keeping some of the cards close to my chest,” he said.

“When I say ‘I do not remember,’ it also means ‘I do not want to tell you right now.’ It’s not that I have things in my head that I don’t say, but when they are trying to get me to reach conclusions, I don’t answer. I am buying myself time to figure out what’s going on,” Filber said.

Shlomo Filber arrives in court for the trial of Benjamin Netanyahu at the District Court in Jerusalem, May 10, 2022 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Tuesday’s testimony and cross-examination related to Case 4000, the most serious of the three cases against the former prime minister.

Netanyahu is alleged to have advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that immensely benefited Bezeq — the country’s largest telecommunications firm — and its owner Shaul Elovitch, despite opposition from Communication Ministry officials. In exchange, he allegedly was given what amounted to editorial control over Elovitch’s Walla news site.

One of Netanyahu’s defense lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur, opened the day’s proceedings by declaring to Filber that he was going to prove that his testimony about an initial meeting with Bezeq was “untrue.”

Ben Zur posited that until he turned state witness, Filber did not think that Netanyahu had intervened illegally in matters relating to the telecom giant.

Ben-Zur claimed that Filber’s testimony during the trial that he went to the first meeting with Bezeq as “a representative of the prime minister” was false, because when questioned by police before he turned state witness, he said Netanyahu gave him “free rein” in all matters concerning Elovitch.

“Netanyahu gave me complete free rein. He told me at the beginning, when I entered the first meeting. He said to me: ‘Listen, the market… I understand that this is a very large market. I give you two guidelines — one, uphold competition in the wholesale market, and two, do not raise prices for me. Everything else, do what you think,” Filber told police, according to the testimony Ben Zur read to the court.

Filber also had said that Netanyahu was mainly interested in the Communications Ministry’s activities that directly concerned the media, rather than telecommunications.

Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for his trial at the District Court in Jerusalem, May 10, 2022 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

“Netanyahu told me one thing when I got into this. He told me, ‘Telecom does not interest me. I have all kinds of inquiries, but it does not interest me. I refer them to you,'” Filber was said to have told investigators.

Filber on Tuesday explained the discrepancies in his testimony regarding Netanyahu’s level of involvement by telling the court that at the time of his arrest in February 2018, sentences that had sounded trivial to him at the time had taken on new meaning, and that he then began processing information that was presented to him during the investigation.

Filber also said he did not remember being specifically asked about the connection between Bezeq and Netanyahu in October 2017 during the Securities Authority’s investigation. Filber was questioned by the Securities Authority months before police first questioned him, and long before he turned state witness.

He confirmed that he had told the Securities Authority “there had never been a meeting with the prime minister.”

“I answered what I remembered at the time,” Filber told the court, before adding that during the later police investigation “I realized that there is a new world that I hadn’t previously known.”

Netanyahu is on trial in three corruption cases. He faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in Case 4000. He denies wrongdoing and says the charges were fabricated in a political coup led by the police and state prosecution.

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