Netanyahu confidant identified as scandals mount

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already reeling from a damaging police report into alleged corruption, faced yet another scandal on Tuesday — with allegations that a longtime confidant attempted to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against the Israeli leader’s wife.

Netanyahu quickly denounced the allegations. But they presented an embarrassing new headache for him as a growing list of members of his inner circle gets swept up in scandals.

The latest case surrounds Nir Hefetz, a longtime media adviser to Netanyahu and his family.

Hefetz is suspected of suggesting, through a middleman, to Judge Hila Gerstel in 2015 that she could be appointed attorney general if she dismissed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu’s excessive household spending. Hefetz and the middleman are being held in police custody.

The offer never materialized, and Israel’s current attorney general recommended last fall indicting Mrs. Netanyahu in the case.

But Israeli media, including columnist Ben Caspit, who broke the story, said the judge was shocked by the offer. Police said Tuesday she had given testimony as part of their investigation.

The Haaretz daily said Gerstel had spoken about the incident at the time to her colleague Esther Hayut, who is now the Supreme Court’s chief justice. Media reports said that Hayut is expected to be questioned by police.

Netanyahu said the latest suspicions were a continuation of a wider media witch hunt against him and his family.

“Nir Hefetz never presented this ludicrous offer to the prime minister and his wife, he was never asked by them to make such an offer and we can’t imagine that Hefetz would even imagine such a thing,” Netanyahu said.

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