Netanyahu’s Prosecutors Ordered to Search Key Witness’ Cellphone

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Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua attends court hearing in Jerusalem last week.
Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua attends court hearing in Jerusalem last week.Credit: Emil Salman

Judges in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial accepted a request from his defense and ordered prosecutors to search the cellphone of Ilan Yeshua, former CEO of the Walla news website and central witness in the Bezeq-Walla bribery case.

Prosecutors were told Wednesday to locate all the relevant material concerning Yeshua’s involvement in the coverage on the website. Prosecutors are to pass on all the relevant materials to Netanyahu’s lawyers after the search. It is expected that the prosecution will find further material, and this will mean Yeshua’s testimony will take even longer.

The court session ended early because of the fires that broke out around Jerusalem Wednesday.

The judges wrote that it is undisputed that relevant investigative materials were not provided to the defense, and they criticized prosecutors, saying this situation must be corrected as soon as possible. They are to search the phone and Yeshua’s correspondence with politicians, business and media figures. The judges rejected a defense request to receive a list of all of Yeshua’s contacts, because it could violate his privacy.

The prosecution said they had received the ruling and were “studying the details.”

At the same time, the judges of the Jerusalem District Court accepted the objection of prosecutors to the line of cross-examination conducted by Boaz Ben Zur, the lawyer representing Netanyahu, after he presented dozens of articles published on the website.

Judith Tirosh, the leading prosecutor in the case, asked to prevent Ben Zur from presenting stories that he hadn’t been involved in preparing.

“Time after time, they present him with articles and ask him about things he had no part in,” she said. “He was the CEO, not an editor and not a journalist. The editors and journalists will be here, let them ask them. We have no problem that they ask, but it should be relevant to the witness.”

Ben Zur objected, but the head of the three-judge tribunal, Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman, made it clear that he could ask about stories which Yeshua had personal knowledge about – but “conjecture was not admissible.”

Ben Zur presented Yeshua with a large number of articles in an attempt to prove that the coverage on Walla was not sympathetic to Netanyahu, and that many of the prime minister’s requests were legitimate and were agreed to unrelated to the alleged bribery affair between Netanyahu and the former owner of Bezeq, Shaul Elovitch.

Ben Zur once again claimed that Walla took a hostile line against Netanyahu in its coverage of Meni Naftali, who was the chief caretaker of the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. In a message sent by the site’s editor Avi Alkalay to the news editor Baruch Shai: We are in Meni Naftali’s “shit” too much. “We need to calm this thing down a bit, because it is deflecting the agenda.”

Yeshua said: “There was a request from Shaul on the matter of Meni Naftali, it was important to them, and I turned to Avi Alkalay. ... They put pressure on me, and I pressured him.”

Throughout his cross-examination, Yeshua stressed that he was not involved in most of the stories Ben Zur presented, and he could only testify about those cases in which requests to slant the coverage were sent to him.

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