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Netanyahu’s defense: Yeshua tried to balance anti-Bibi trends, no bribery

CM 24/05/2021

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The defense in the public corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Elovitch family on Monday at the Jerusalem District Court tried to present former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua as intervening with news reporting to balance anti-Netanyahu trends, not to further a media bribery scheme.
Yeshua was being cross-examined by Michal Rozin-Ozer, lawyer for Iris Elovitch, who presented text messages, articles and statements from former Walla employees to paint Yeshua as interfering in news content of his own initiative.
If the defense can prove this narrative, it could undermine the media bribery narrative.
Further, Rozin-Ozer succeeded in extracting an admission from Yeshua that he sometimes presented to Iris, and her husband Shaul, owner of Walla and Bezeq, a picture of the news staff as being unfairly anti-Netanyahu and requiring his intervention to create balance.
The court has heard Yeshua testify and defense lawyers cross-examining him since the beginning of April.
Yeshua is the opening witness in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, in which Netanyahu and the Elovitches are accused of a scheme to slant Walla’s coverage toward the prime minister in exchange for government regulatory favoritism.
During questioning, Rozin-Ozer said to Yeshua: “The picture you portray to Iris and Shaul Elovitch is that you have an organization which is acting against you. But from everything that has been discussed here… I am telling you that not only are you not trying to calm things. You are a provocateur. You are an inciter. You cause inflamed passions,” adding that he also told the Elovitches that much of Walla was unfairly anti-Netanyahu.

Yeshua responded: “This is a result of the pressure that was put on me and which I forwarded on both upward and downward in order to try to justify myself.”
Though Yeshua tried to contextualize his self-initiated interventions beyond direct requests from Netanyahu’s messengers, this was still an admission.
The defense also introduced evidence that Yeshua intervened relating to Gideon Sa’ar’s wife, Geula Even Sa’ar, and the former Walla CEO has admitted to intervening to assist other politicians in the past, though always with the disclaimer that interventions for Netanyahu were at a whole different level.
Next, Rozin-Ozer got Yeshua to admit that he and Iris intervened in many non-Netanyahu aspects of the website, such as balancing a post-Zionist critical portrayal of Israel with a more patriotic positive depiction of the Jewish state.
In addition, Rozin-Ozer tried to specifically limit any culpability to Iris, as opposed to other defendants.
She said that Yeshua had wrongly testified that Iris was involved in the alleged bribery scheme since she joined a Whatsapp group with him and Shaul in 2015.
In contrast, Rozin-Ozer said records indicate that Iris was only actively involved starting around February 2016.
There are disparate views about whether Iris’s involvement before February 2016 had any major significance or not.
It is unclear exactly to what extent this would impact her culpability if the prosecution wins, but it could significantly reduce that culpability as compared to Netanyahu and Shaul since she would then only have been involved for around 10 months of the alleged scheme’s four years.
Rozin-Ozer is expected to question Yeshua for a few more days, followed by a final round of cross-examination by Netanyahu’s lawyer, Boaz Ben Tzur.
After Yeshua, the prosecution will either proceed to other Walla employees, as originally planned, or may call some of the key witnesses in Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair, such as billionaire tycoon Arnon Milchan, to avoid concerns of witness intimidation.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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