Hefetz testimony postponed until Monday

Netanyahu himself attended the hearing –the first time he has attended since April.

 Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) arrives for a court hearing on corruption charges, on November 16, 2021 in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) arrives for a court hearing on corruption charges, on November 16, 2021 in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The Jerusalem District Court decided to postpone until Monday the testimony of Nir Hefetz, a state prosecution star witness and former top aide to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu himself attended the hearing on Tuesday – the first he has attended since April.

The court decision followed a last-minute twist on Monday afternoon when the defense asked the court to postpone Hefetz’s testimony by one week. The prosecution had disclosed it had collected surprising new testimony from Case 1000 witness Hadas Klein, some of which was leaked to the media before it was given to the defense legal team.

The judges also harshly rebuked law enforcement for new leaks of anti-Netanyahu evidence to the media, and pushed harder for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to criminally probe the issue, calling the leaks “very grave.”

Even Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben Ari said she was “disgusted” by the leaks, agreed that they were “very grave,” and vowed that no leaks had come from her prosecution team.

Netanyahu defense lawyer Amit Hadad sent a letter to Mandelblit later on Tuesday demanding a criminal probe.

 Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives for a court hearing on corruption charges, on November 16, 2021 in Jerusalem.  (credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES) Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives for a court hearing on corruption charges, on November 16, 2021 in Jerusalem. (credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

In November 2020, the High Court of Justice upheld Mandelblit’s decision not to probe earlier leaks of materials to the media regarding Netanyahu.

The 3-0 decision including High Court President Esther Hayut and justices Noam Sohlberg and George Kara was actually a surprise, after Hayut gave Mandelblit’s office a bruising rebuke at a September 2020 hearing, but ultimately the court did not think it could force a probe.

The prosecution said that Klein approached them on October 13 with new evidence against Netanyahu, which multiple media reports said related to jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels that Sara Netanyahu requested from Klein’s boss, billionaire Arnon Milchin and billionaire James Packer.

Late Tuesday night, multiple media outlets reported that Klein was told by Sara that the former prime minister did not think a specific bracelet was nice enough, calling it “a Romanian bracelet.”

The broader significance of this evidence could be to show that the prime minister knew of all of the alleged illegal gifts that Sara was being given. But the prosecution may end up not using any of this evidence to avoid further trial delays.

Netanyahu’s spokesman rejected the new allegations as inaccurate, and also noted a motion his lawyers filed to the court against the prosecution and law enforcement for alleged improper leaks to the media.

Because Klein’s testimony relates to the Illegal Gifts Affair and not to Case 4000, the court could have proceeded with Hefetz as planned.

Under heavy pressure from the defense to give them a postponement to see the new evidence, and to prepare for any connection between that evidence and Hefetz’s testimony, the judges chose the path of least resistance and granted the delay.

At Tuesday hearing, the judges’ questions indicated they wanted to continue with Hefetz’s testimony, and would just instruct the prosecution not to ask any questions about Case 1000.

But once the defense lawyers accused the prosecution of virtual “violence” and challenged the legal fairness of the process, the judges appeared shaken and agreed to the delay.

The prosecution did not oppose the postponement, although they said that Hefetz could have been questioned without getting into Case 1000 issues.

Following the hearing, some reporters were harassed by Netanyahu supporters as they left the courthouse, including Channel 13’s Baruch Kra, who was rapped on the head with a stick. It caused no injury, but his kippah fell to the ground.