Netanyahu Trial: Cross-examination of Ex-news Site CEO Resumes

The former Walla CEO, Ilan Yeshua, is in the dock over accusations that the controlling shareholder of the news site promoted biased coverage of the Netanyahu family

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אילן ישועה בבית המשפט המחוזי בירושלים, אתמול
Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua, yesterdayCredit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu resumed Tuesday, with the cross-examination of a former CEO of a leading Israeli news site over allegations of biased coverage in favor of the prime minister.

Jack Chen, the lawyer representing former Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch, is interrogating former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua, a key witness in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla bribery case.

Yeshua testified on Monday that he "unequivocally" did not believe that skewing coverage to favor Netanyahu was criminal at first.

He told the court on Monday he changed his mind after a meeting in late 2016 when he was asked by Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, which owned Walla, to destroy evidence of the tendentious reporting. He referred to that encounter as the “obstruction [of justice] meeting.”

“I wouldn’t have gone near anything criminal. I wouldn’t have done it for fear of punishment, period,” Yeshua said. 

When asked by Elovitch’s attorney, Jack Chen, Yeshua confirmed that Walla’s lawyer, with whom he had consulted about the biased coverage, did not tell him it was illegal.

Yeshua contacted attorney Reli Leshem in 2015 after an investigative report in Haaretz revealed the biased coverage. He confirmed that what the Haaretz report said was true and showed him the correspondence on the matter. After this, he sought to reduce the degree of intervention in Walla’s content.

“You didn’t think that you had been involved in illegal acts, because otherwise there would be no ‘degree’ to talk about,” Chen said, and Yeshua agreed.

Tuesday is the fourth day of Yeshua's cross-examination, after Monday’s hearing was cut short, at the request of the defense and the prosecution, due to the disruptions to public transportation on Jerusalem Day.

After Chen, Yeshua will be cross-examined by the lawyer of Elovitch’s wife Iris, Michal Rosen, and finally by Netanyahu’s lawyer Boaz Ben Zur. The cross-examination will focus on what went on behind the scenes concerning the accusations of biased news coverage on the Walla news site on behalf of Netanyahu and his family.

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