Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu stand next to the dedication plaque of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, after the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018..
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE/RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Sara Netanyahu is suspected of having dictated the content and coverage of the Israeli news site Walla, a Tel Aviv Magistrate Court judge said in the framework of Case 4000, Kan News reported Thursday.
Also known as the Bezeq-Walla Affair, Case 4000 involves allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered preferential treatment for Bezeq in exchange for positive media coverage by the Walla media outlet.
Netanyahu is alleged to have ordered top aide Shlomo Filber – who he appointed as director-general of the Communications Ministry – to issue favorable rulings for Bezeq. That reportedly included getting anti-trust regulators to approve Bezeq’s merger with satellite TV unit Yes.
Bezeq’s news site Walla has been accused of exchanging that favor for giving positive coverage to Netanyahu and his wife, with the prime minister’s aide Nir Hefetz managing the contact. Hefetz agreed to become a state’s witness, testifying against his former boss.
Shaul Elovitch, the owner of Walla, its controlling shareholder and former Bezeq chairman, is said to have coordinated the coverage.
According to Kan, Judge Ala Masrawa said that the investigation revealed that the Elowitz and his wife Iris knew that without the regulator's approval, the deal between Bezeq and Yes would not be implemented. He wrote this in his to request the couple to release their belongings that had been seized at the beginning of the investigation.
Iris had said that it was unjust that they had taken their possessions when they did not do the same to Sara Netanyahu. The judge said the two cannot be compared because "the suspicions against her are focused on the subject of her taking control of the news site, its content and influence of its news coverage, as part of the bribery offenses." Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report
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