Day two of the public corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started on Tuesday morning with lawyers from the prosecution and the defense battling over evidentiary issues before the Jerusalem District Court.
The lawyers defending Netanyahu, former Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris, may request that the court halt the entire public corruption trial until they can appeal to the High Court of Justice against the court’s Tuesday afternoon ruling in favor of the prosecution regarding former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua’s testimony.
Yeshua has been describing the background to Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, which is the most severe of Netanyahu’s three alleged public corruption cases.
The allegations are that Netanyahu favored Elovitch’s Bezeq in his communications policy in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla website.
After three hours of debate on Tuesday by the prosecution and defense about whether Yeshua should be allowed to make new factual statements that were not part of his police testimony, the Jerusalem District Court rejected the defense’s arguments.
The defense had demanded that Yeshua first return to the police to make additions and only after to let him continue his testimony.
They said too many new factual surprises in the courtroom made it impossible for them to properly follow the ongoing testimony as well as coordinate their defense.
The court accepted the prosecution’s argument that this was unnecessary as it did not view his additions as sufficiently major to change the basic thrust of his testimony.
During the exchange, the prosecution also accused the defense of trying to block Yeshua from testifying, leading to a harsh counter-condemnation by the defense.
Eventually, Yeshua was allowed to continue his testimony for the remainder of Tuesday, with the prosecution promising to avoid new factual issues until Wednesday should the defense decide to appeal to the High Court.
At press time, the defense had not signaled whether it would appeal to the High Court. But it was also holding out the possibility of asking for a three- to four-week trial recess between the end of Yeshua’s direct testimony for the prosecution and their opportunity to cross-examine him.
The prosecution is expected to continue with Yeshua on Wednesday, next week and likely for one or more hearings on April 19-21.
On Monday, Yeshua testified that he and a senior editor had referred to Netanyahu as “Kim,” a reference to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Yeshua said he and senior Walla editor Avi Alkalai did this because they felt pressured to tilt coverage toward Netanyahu.
“All the requests of politicians over 13 years might be equivalent to one week of requests from the prime minister and his wife [over three years],” he said. “Also, the quality of their requests was not as intense as what was here” with the Netanyahus.
Yeshua said he faced a revolt within Walla, and there was a revolving door of editors leaving in protest.
Top Walla personality Yinon Magal once asked Yeshua: “What is the abomination we are doing here?” and threatened to go directly to Netanyahu to get him to drop the requests to tilt coverage.