Netanyahu Trial: Ex-aide Denies Claim He Met With Telecom Exec for Himself, Not Former PM

Nir Hefetz met with businessman Shaul Elovitch, who indirectly controlled the Walla news site that allegedly provided positive coverage of Netanyahu for regulatory favors

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Nir Hefetz in court in Jerusalem, last week.
Nir Hefetz in court in Jerusalem, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Nir Hefetz, the former adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu who turned state's evidence in the ex-prime minister's corruption trial, denied Monday that his relationship with a businessman in a Netanyahu corruption case was for himself, not Netanyahu.

In one of three corruption cases against Netanyahu, the former prime minister allegedly provided regulatory favors to the Bezeq telecom company, which owned the Walla news website that allegedly provided positive coverage of Netanyahu.

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Shaul Elovitch, who was Bezeq's controlling shareholder, has also been charged in the case. On Monday his lawyer, Jacques Chen, attempted to show that Hefetz’s relationship with Elovitch was driven by the adviser's personal interests, not Netanyahu's. Hefetz denied this.

Chen accused Hefetz of engaging with Elovitch for personal gain by aiding Netanyahu's attempt to establish a right-wing news site in 2016 and 2017.

Hefetz said that if such an outlet had been established, he "would have been interested in being part of it in some capacity.” Hefetz also said he had expressed interest in establishing a website or television channel independent of Netanyahu.

Chen also argued that Hefetz’s conversations with the former director general of the Communications Ministry, Shlomo Filber, showed that he was pursuing his own interests.

Chen quoted from Hefetz’s testimony to the police in which he said: “I initiated most of my meetings with Momo [Filber] over my own matters, which was mostly multichannel television.”

But Hefetz said that while he initiated most of those meetings, they were almost entirely to discuss Netanyahu’s affairs.

"The meetings with Filber regarding multichannel television were not my own project; I was sent by Netanyahu. One-hundred percent of my actions concerning Channel 20, for example, were for him."

Chen also quoted Hefetz's previous testimony, saying that “Netanyahu would say that when it comes to the media, the person with money is the one whose opinion counts, and I agreed with him.” Hefetz said he was only talking about Elovitch in this case.

According to Chen, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua said in his testimony that contacting the CEO of a media outlet was not accepted practice, a statement that Hefetz rejected.

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