An ex-aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signed a state witness deal in a corruption probe linked to his former boss, Israeli media reported Monday, dealing a new setback to the premier.
News of the agreement broke ahead of Netanyahu’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House later Monday.
The widely reported agreement between Israeli authorities and Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman for the Netanyahu family, comes as corruption investigations into the prime minister intensify.
Israeli police provided no details on the reported agreement. Hefetz would be the third Netanyahu associate to sign a state witness deal in recent months.
An aide to Netanyahu immediately denounced the reports and proclaimed the long-serving prime minister’s innocence.
“When there’s something there, it doesn’t take even one state witness,” the aide said.
“And now, even a thousand state witnesses will not help.”
On Sunday, an Israeli court released Hefetz and telecoms mogul Shaul Elovitch and put them under house arrest after 14 days in custody.
Hefetz is alleged to have acted as a messenger between Netanyahu, Elovitch’s telecoms group Bezeq and news website Walla!, media reports say.
Police suspect Bezeq was given regulatory breaks in return for Netanyahu receiving positive coverage on Walla!, a news website owned by the telecoms group.
Hefetz is also suspected of trying to bribe a retired judge to block a probe into the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, over alleged misuse of public funds, according to the reports.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Hefetz had agreed to hand over recordings of Netanyahu and his wife as part of the state witness deal.
Last month, Israeli police recommended Netanyahu’s indictment on two other cases of alleged bribery. The attorney general is now considering how to move forward in those cases.
In one case, Netanyahu and family members are suspected of receiving one million shekels ($285,000, 230,000 euros) in gifts, including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery, from wealthy figures in exchange for financial or personal favours.
In the other case, investigators suspect the premier of trying to reach an agreement with the owner of Yediot Aharonot newspaper for more favourable coverage.
Israeli media reported that Hefetz could also provide testimony in those two investigations.
The building investigations into Netanyahu’s affairs have raised questions over whether the 68-year-old will eventually have to step down.
He has been prime minister for a total of around 12 years.
The probes have also led to speculation in the Israeli media that he may opt for early elections in the coming months in a bid to bolster his standing before a decision on indictments is made.
Intel Chiefs: Don’t Buy Chinese Phones
Six top U.S. intelligence chiefs told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.
The six — including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence — first expressed their distrust of Apple-rival Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE in reference to public servants and state agencies.
When prompted during the hearing, all six indicated they would not recommend private citizens use products from the Chinese companies.
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” FBI Director Chris Wray testified.
On top of that, the Phone maker was caught buying fake reviews. Huawei’s new flagship phone, the Mate 10 Pro, is available for pre-order in the US despite not having any deals with US carriers — so to get some attention, it seems the company has stooped to having fake reviews for the new phone planted online, as spotted by 9to5Google.
Police Recommend Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Arrested for Bribery
The Israel Police recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in two alleged corruption cases.
The recommendation, made public on Tuesday evening, comes after yearlong investigations into the two alleged corruption cases.
State prosecutors must now decide whether or not to file indictments.
Netanyahu in an address to the nation Tuesday night maintained his innocence, saying the recommendations “cast a dark shadow” and “have no place in a democratic state.”
“I will keep working for the good of the country, not for cigars from a friend and not for better media coverage,” he said in reference to the accusations.
During his tenure as prime minister, some 15 investigations have been opened against Netanyahu to “topple me from power,” he said. The prime minister said he is sure he will be re-elected in the next national elections, which are scheduled for November 2019.
Netanyahu is at the center of two probes. In one, known as Case 1000, he allegedly received expensive gifts from supporters in return for advancing their interests, including expensive cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
In the other, Case 2000, Netanyahu is alleged to have conspired with Arnon Mozes, the owner of the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot, to advance legislation hobbling the free and pro-Netanyahu tabloid Israel Hayom bankrolled by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Russia Making Deals with Israel and Palestinians To Control Peace Process
Palestinians have given up working with the US on the Peace Process, and instead have decided that Putin was better than Trump.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea summer beach resort of Sochi on February 12.
“We are hoping that Russia and the EU will step in to fill the void,” the PA official said. “We believe that these countries should and can play a larger role in any peace process in the wake of the Trump administration’s hostile policies toward the Palestinians and bias in favor of Israel.”
The US has already lost a lot of influence in Israel, as Putin and his oligarchs have invested heavily in Alternative Energy in Israel – something that the US lags far behind. Additionally, Putin has visited Israel several times.
A large delegation of senior Russian security officials is slated to arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday for talks on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and Lebanon, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday.
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