Netanyahu Asked Walla News to Push Candidates for Israel’s President, Witness Says in Court

Former Walla news CEO Ilan Yeshua says the owner told him there are candidates whom 'the king (Benjamin Netanyahu) desires to honor'

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2021.Credit: Alex Brandon / Reuters
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Former Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch made it clear that Benjamin Netanyahu had an interest in Israel’s presidential race in 2014, former Walla news CEO Ilan Yeshua testified in the prime minister’s bribery trial Wednesday. Yeshua is a central prosecution witness in the trial.

“Shaul called me and told me there are candidates whom 'the king (Benjamin Netanyahu) desires to honor,’” said Yeshua under cross-examination in Jerusalem District Court by Boaz Ben Zur, part of the prime minister’s defense team. “Shaul explained to me that it was very sensitive and important to Bibi.”

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Ben Zur submitted to the court correspondence between Yeshua and Nir Shalom, an adviser to Dalia Itzik – a former MK and cabinet minister who was a presidential candidate at the time – on a story Walla was planning to run. Shalom was also the link between Elovitch and Yedioth Ahronoth owner-publisher Arnon Mozes.

Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua under cross-examination in Jerusaelem District Court Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The presidential campaign was heated, Yeshua testified. “Dalia Itzik was there, Silvan Shalom, and around it was enormous interest of your client – the prime minister. Around the campaign for president was a passionate interest of the prime minister in who would be elected, it will certainly amaze you.”

Ben Zur asked: “You spoke to him? Was it something you heard with your ears?” Yeshua answered: “No. I learned mostly from briefings by Shaul who explained and interpreted. ... We ran a campaign at the prime minister’s request to postpone the election so it wouldn’t be (Reuven) Rivlin.”

As for pressure from Shalom to delay the release of an investigative report on Itzik, Yeshua said: “There were opposing interests, Nir Shalom wanted something and Shaul wanted, but in the end Bibi won. ... I got it from all directions.” He also said: “It’s ridiculous to think the prime minister interfered in the presidential race? I supposedly learned about it from Shaul. Is there anyone in the country who didn’t know about the prime minister’s involvement?”

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