During the second day of the corruption trial for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua told the court about a dramatic meeting in December 2016 when Shaul and Iris Elovitch called him to their house on an emergency basis.
The Elovitches took his cellphone and their cellphones and left them outside the house, he said.
Next, the Elovitches told him they must coordinate their stories about the interference with Walla’s coverage, he added.
Shaul Elovitch said they, Yeshua and Netanyahu would claim it was done to keep Walla from being too far-left politically and due to the close friendship between Netanyahu and Elovitch, Yeshua said.
Further, Elovitch insisted that he destroy all text messages relating to the media scheme, he said.
Yeshua said he refused, adding that he would delete the messages later after he had saved some personal messages.
In addition, Elovitch told Yeshua he should destroy his cellphone, he said.
Yeshua said he was in such shock from the potential of criminal liability for himself, the Elovitches and Netanyahu that when he got home, he could not get out of his car for 10 minutes.
The former Walla CEO said he never destroyed the text messages.
In fact, the next morning, he met with multiple lawyers who recorded everything that had happened and placed their written account in a safe, he told the court.
Next, Yeshua said he came to Walla’s office and called a special emergency meeting with Walla chief executive editor Aviram Elad and news director Michael Kline.
Both are due to testify after Yeshua testifies and is cross-examined, probably around the end of the summer or early fall.
He said he told them to cease any special favoritism for Netanyahu.
The two were skeptical that Yeshua would stick to such an independent line after four years of tilted coverage for Netanyahu and promises that things would “return to normal soon,” he said, adding that he convinced them that this time he was serious.
Throughout the day, Yeshua testified that Netanyahu’s top aide, Nir Hefetz, repeatedly called him and texted him, but Yeshua went out of his way to ignore and avoid him.
Further, in multiple later meetings, Elovitch asked him if he had deleted the text messages that could be used as proof of the media scheme, Yeshua told the court.
He said he lied to Elovitch and told him he had deleted them to get him off his back.
Elovitch told Yeshua that Hefetz was trying to contact him, he said. Yeshua said he replied, “I will have nothing to do with him” any more.
At a later date, Elovitch complained to him that Elovitch might be in criminal trouble relating to slanting the Walla coverage, Yeshua testified.
Elovitch told him he had been told by a lawyer that pretending they had slanted coverage simply to avoid Walla being viewed as left wing would probably not hold water as an alibi in court in light of the facts, he said.
Yeshua told this to the judges with some irony, given that this is exactly the alibi that Elovitch told police and is expected to try to use when he takes the stand.
The former Walla CEO is expected to continue his testimony on Wednesday and into mid- to late April, followed by weeks or months of cross-examination.