Netanyahu's Corruption Trial: The Key Players Who Will Decide the PM's Fate

A glance at some of the main players who could tip the balance in Netanyahu's trial in three cases on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust

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Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

For the first time in Israel’s history, an incumbent prime minister is on trial. The battle for public opinion and other background noise are supposed to remain outside the courtroom of Jerusalem District Court Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman. Now all eyes are on the hundreds of witnesses, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, and primarily on the judges, who will have to weigh contradicting narratives in order to determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a criminal or innocent of wrongdoing.

Here are the people whose testimonies and the way they function will eventually bring about a decision on the three cases that have been seizing the country’s attention for years.

Judges

Moshe
Bar-Am
Judge
Moshe Bar-Am was appointed to the Southern District Magistrate’s Court in 2000, and promoted to the Jerusalem District Court in 2012. He has had very few dealings with corruption or financial cases, but is considered an expert in cases involving serious crime, the most prominent of which was the conviction last year of Daniel Nahmani for murdering teenager Noa Eyal in Jerusalem 21 years previously.
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Moshe
Bar-Am
Rivka
Friedman-Feldman
Head of judge panel
Friedman-Feldman, considered an independent-minded and courageous judge, has served on the bench of the Jerusalem District Court since 2012. She was one of the judges who, in 2015, convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a retrial held in the case where he was charged with taking envelopes of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky, after Olmert’s former assistant, Shula Zaken, came forward with new testimony. Friedman-Feldman even stated that he could have been convicted in the first round of legal proceedings without Zaken’s incriminating recordings. Friedman-Feldman has a reputation of being tough on corruption. In one memorable quote from her Olmert verdict, she wrote, “An examination of each individual act on its own could lead to the conclusion that the acts do not constitute a criminal offense. But an overall view, addressing all the acts as a whole, testify to the receipt of money over many years … Each benefit in and of itself doesn’t appear to be so important, but the weight is found in the context and the entirety of the actions.”
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Rivka
Friedman-Feldman
Oded
Shaham
Judge
Shaham was appointed to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 2004, and was promoted to the district court in 2012. In the trial of Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi for breach of trust in 2010, there was a disagreement among the judges as to whether the offense of moral turpitude should be added to the charge of perjury for which Hanegbi was convicted (he was acquitted of the main charge). Shaham ruled in a tough majority opinion that “the question being put to the court is primarily an ethical one … We must keep in mind those people who do the right thing and walk the straight path. Can we determine that there is no disgrace in lying?”
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Oded
Shaham

Accused

Shaul
Elovitch
Bezeq, former controlling shareholder
Elovitch controls the Eurocom Group, and was controlling shareholder of Bezeq through that holding company. He is charged with bribery in Case 4000 for providing favorable coverage to Netanyahu on the Walla website, including possible intervention in determining the news content of the site at the request of the prime minister and his family. In exchange, Netanyahu is said to have taken regulatory measures that yielded huge profits for Elovitch. The indictment says Elovitch pressured Walla’s CEO, Ilan Yeshua, to present Netanyahu and his wife Sara in a positive light, to remove critical articles and to publish items critical of the prime minister's rivals. In one piece of correspondence seized by police, Elovitch wrote Yeshua, “We’re crazy, we need him to sign tomorrow.” Elovitch also apparently told Yeshua, “Give the lady [Sara] everything you can. He’s killing himself for me.”
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Shaul
Elovitch
Benjamin
Netanyahu
Prime minister
Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. In Case 1000 he is accused of accepting lavish gifts from businessmen Arnon Milchan and James Packer. According to the indictment, he allegedly advanced Milchan’s personal and business interests even though this constituted a clear conflict of interest. In Case 2000 he is charged with fraud and breach of trust for exploiting a bribery offer that he received from Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes. According to the indictment, that act “fundamentally and thoroughly undermines the rule of law, personal integrity and public confidence,” and the prime minister “conveyed a message that one could use bribery offers for the mutual interests of elected officials and businessmen." Case 4000, the most serious of the three, alleges that Netanyahu was involved in acts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust when instituting regulatory changes that yielded Shaul Elovitch, controlling shareholder of the Bezeq, a billion-shekel ($286-million) profit in return for favorable coverage on the Elovitch-controlled Walla news site.
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Benjamin
Netanyahu
Arnon
Mozes
Yedioth Ahronoth publisher
Mozes is the owner and publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth Group. He is charged with offering a bribe to Netanyahu when, in recordings confiscated by the Israel Police, he suggested giving the prime minister favorable coverage, to paint his rivals in a negative light and even to hire journalists whom Netanyahu would propose. In return Mozes allegedly asked that legislation be passed that would restrict the distribution of rival newspaper Israel Hayom, which was founded and operated by close Netanyahu associate, Sheldon Adelson.
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Arnon
Mozes

Key witnesses

Ari
Harow
State's evidence
Harow once served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff and was considered to be one of his confidants. An investigation was launched against Harow in 2015 and after two years, the police announced that it found enough evidence to charge him with bribery, aggravated fraud, conspiring to commit a crime and money laundering. During this investigation Harow was found to have a recording of a meeting between Netanyahu and Mozes that became the main piece of evidence in Case 2000. In 2017, Harow signed an agreement to turn state's evidence and provided substantial evidence in both the lavish-gifts case and Yedioth Ahronoth case.
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Ari
Harow
Nir
Hefetz
State's evidence
Before the Netanyahu cases erupted, Hefetz was one of the premier’s closest associates, and served as spokesman and media adviser to him and his wife Sara. In the past he had held senior posts in the Israeli media. Before signing a deal to turn state’s evidence, Hefetz was arrested and questioned on the suspicion that he had helped to promote the bribery deal between Netanyahu and Elovitch, even though he was aware of its criminal aspects. After two weeks of detention, Hefetz signed the agreement and gave investigators correspondence and recordings that involved Netanyahu. As part of the effort to get Hefetz to turn state’s evidence, a woman with whom he had had a relationship was summoned and questioned, even though she had nothing to do with the case. Investigators then threatened that they would break up Hefetz’s family.
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Nir
Hefetz
Shlomo
Filber
State's evidence
Filber was once a close associate of Netanyahu’s and served as Communications Ministry director general when the premier held that portfolio, during the period in which the events described in the Bezeq-Walla indictments allegedly took place. Today, Filber is the co-owner of the Direct Polls polling and research firm. Before signing off on an agreement to turn state’s evidence in 2018, Filber was suspected of advancing the regulatory moves that benefited Elovitch at Netanyahu’s request, even though he knew he was getting involved in a bribery deal. In addition, Filber was suspected of passing on inside information to Bezeq from the Communications Ministry that helped the giant telecom company. Although he will appear as a witness for the state, it is believed that Filber will argue that the steps he took were defensible from a professional point of view and not taken at Netanyahu’s behest.
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Shlomo
Filber

More on Netanyahu's trial: 
■ Netanyahu continues to incite, and it could end in blood
■ For 50 minutes, Netanyahu's fate was controlled by two women in black
■ Netanyahu the defendant serves notice on his judges: You’re next
For Netanyahu supporters, he's already exonerated. Now the judges must fall in line
■ 
What Netanyahu had done during his investigations is even worse than the actual charges
■ LISTEN: Bibi’s slash-and-burn strategy puts Israel on trial

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