Elovitch: PM ‘would commit suicide for me’

Netanyahu trial bangs into Iran nuclear deal

Former CEO of Walla! Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against PM Netanyahu who is on trial on criminal allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, at the District Court in Jerusalem, April 7, 202 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Former CEO of Walla! Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against PM Netanyahu who is on trial on criminal allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, at the District Court in Jerusalem, April 7, 202
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
The public corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday brought together the past and the present regarding the Iran nuclear deal.
Testifying for the fifth day before the Jerusalem District Court, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua spoke about an intervention by Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz, who demanded that Walla post an article about minister Tzachi Hanegbi saying that Israel would not be obligated to respect the Obama administration’s Iran deal.
The article and the texts date back to July 6, 2015, with the deal signed around a week later on July 14.
Yeshua’s testimony and his text messages with Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch depict the heavy involvement of Netanyahu and his messengers in running aspects of Walla’s website, as well as the prime minister helping Bezeq with regulatory issues.
Media bribery for regulatory help is the underlying theory of Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair.
In the text messages, Elovitch writes to Yeshua: “The big one [Netanyahu] surprises me positively every day on the most important issues. We need to find a way to compensate him.”
Yeshua responded: “At the end of the day, we are providing what was requested, but we can improve.”
Next, Elovitch wrote: “He is entitled to it. I do not like to be in someone’s debt. He has really taken care of and completely changed the old way of doing things” when the policy was to pressure Bezeq into reforms.
Elovitch continued: “What is frustrating is that the big one [Netanyahu] is jumping out of his skin to help, and we cannot [fully] compensate him because of a group [of Walla journalists] that is worthless [for resisting pro-Netanyahu orders].”
Yeshua said: “At the end of the day, we are fine, it leads to a cost in blood… we can do more, but we need to build a completely different apparatus, not [reporter] Dubik [Dov Gil Har] and not [chief editor] Avi [Alkalai].”
In another incident regarding an alleged request for positive coverage of Sara Netanyahu to Walla, Elovitch wrote to Yeshua that Netanyahu (still using code names) “would commit suicide for me” (to promote Bezeq’s interests) to emphasize how important it was to give Sara what she wanted at Walla.
Next, on September 23-24, 2015, there allegedly was a series of efforts by Netanyahu’s messengers to make sure that only the prime minister, and not justice minister Ayelet Shaked, gets credit for moving forward legislation against Palestinians who threw Molotov cocktails and rocks.
On September 24, 2015, Elovitch texted Yeshua that despite extensive discussions about the Netanyahu-Shaked issue, Walla’s report did not satisfy Netanyahu and that Elovitch received an angry call in which he was rebuked.
Further, Elovitch wrote: “I look either not trustworthy or like a fool who pays people money in order to screw [Netanyahu]. I am not happy with [Walla chief editor] Avi’s [Alkalai] performance.”
A new development that could be critical for the prosecution was the appearance of former top Netanyahu aide Shlomo Filber  – who became Communications Ministry director-general and then a state’s witness – interfering with Walla’s coverage of Netanyahu.
Generally speaking, Filber is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness to prove its case regarding Netanyahu’s handling of regulatory issues to benefit Elovitch.
However, the appearance of Filber forwarding a file with more than 80 examples of Walla coverage of Netanyahu viewed as insufficiently positive to Yeshua took many in the media by surprise.
Asked what Filber should have to do with Walla under normal circumstances, Yeshua answered, “Zero.”
Sources on the defense side downplayed the development and said they would show during their presentation that Filber just happened to be around and was asked to forward an email from someone else without really knowing much about it.
Elovitch’s lawyer Jacques Chen made an extensive objection to the prosecution’s line of questioning and presentation of the prosecution.
He said a November 20, 2018, statement by Yeshua to the police made no connection between the favorable media coverage, which he was involved in, and the regulatory issues between the Communications Ministry and Bezeq, where he was not involved.
Essentially, Chen was returning to a constant argument the defense lawyers have made: that Yeshua and the prosecution have been “fixing” and improving his police testimony while testifying in court.
Judges Rivkah Friedman-Feldman and Moshe Bar Am told Chen he needed to wait with such claims until it is his turn to cross-examine Yeshua, as well as through his closing arguments at the end of the trial.
Prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh objected that the defense framed her presentation as misleading or contradictory.
The judges told Tirosh she should also move on to the next issue and that she would be able to respond in her closing statement.