Netanyahu trial: Court allows prosecution to treat key witness as hostile

A key witness for the prosecution changed her testimony and accused investigators of political pressure against her.

 Yifat Ben-Hai Segev seen after a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 13, 2022. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Yifat Ben-Hai Segev seen after a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 13, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The District Court in Jerusalem allowed the state prosecutor’s office to treat the state witness Dr. Ifat Ben Hai Segev as a hostile witness during the public corruption trial against designated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

The prosecution asked the court to declare her a hostile witness after Dr. Ben Hai Segev changed important details in her testimony compared to her initial examination by the police. Even though the court didn't technically declare her hostile, it nonetheless allowed the prosecution to introduce Dr. Ben Hai Segev's police testimony into court and to cross-examine her about the differences.

Harsh accusations against the prosecution

Dr. Ben Hai Segev claimed that her initial examination by the police had been done "in a threatening and careless manner," adding that the investigator tried to put words in her mouth. She also accused the prosecutor of exerting political pressure against her.

Dr. Ben Hai Segev further criticized her initial investigators, when after being asked why she had not mentioned before that her former boss, the predecessor of the former director-general of the Communication Ministry and former associate of Netanyahu, Shlomo Filber, had tried to stop her from moving forward with the merger, she answered that she had "never been asked" about it.

 Shlomo Filber, former director general of the Communications Ministry court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on June 15, 2022.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Shlomo Filber, former director general of the Communications Ministry court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on June 15, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The prosecutor went on to read out loud exchanges between the witness and the investigator from the police testimony four years ago. In one instance, the witness described to the investigator how Filber pressured her, in the name of the then-Communications Minister Netanyahu, to speed up the merger between Bezeq and YES.

In another passage that was read aloud in the hearing, the witness confirmed again that Filber relayed to her the wishes of the minister to speed up the proceedings but did not explain to her the reasons for the urgency.

The Bezeq-Walla affair

Former Communications Ministry official Dr. Ben Hai Segev initially was supposed to serve as a state witness in Case 4000 and was expected to testify that she had been put under illegal pressure to speed up the merger between the Bezeq and YES companies.

All the way back in 2015, under pressure from former director-general Filber, the ministry had approved the Bezeq-YES merger which was desired by Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch and Netanyahu as part of their alleged positive Walla media coverage for positive Bezeq government policy deal.