The cross-examination of former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua in the trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued Tuesday in Jerusalem District Court. The trial resumed Monday after having been in recess for three months.
Netanyahu’s lawyer Boaz Ben Zur confronted Yeshua with correspondence from 2016 between him and former Walla owner Shaul Elovitch in connection with the way Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, then defense minister, was being covered.
Yeshua testified that Elovitch “presented me with his interests regarding Lieberman, gave me clear instructions not to hurt ‘the Russian,’ not to go for ‘the Russian’s’ head.” He said Elovitch had told him that he “needs him to help me with something soon.” Upon hearing this in court, Elovitch burst out with, “Liar. I never gave you any instruction,” and left the courtroom.
Earlier, after being confronted with the correspondence, Yeshua admitted that he had met with Lieberman five times while serving as Walla CEO. Yeshua testified that “Shaul at a certain point told me I was neglecting ‘the Russian,’ hurting ‘the Russian,’ and the meetings were held with that in mind.”
Ben Zur presented messages exchanged between Yeshua and Lieberman’s media adviser, Tzachi Moshe, in which Yeshua tells Moshe that he had ordered an article removed from the Walla news site entitled, “The picture that embarrassed Lieberman.” Yeshua wrote to Moshe that he thought the report was inappropriate, and told him, “When you see such a thing or when you’re asked for a comment, update me immediately.”
Subsequently, Yeshua wrote to Michal Klein, who served as the head of the newsroom at Walla, “It’s yellow, ridiculous and unfair – that’s what I have to say about this item. I absolutely don’t understand you … I want it dumped immediately.” Klein replied, “The defense minister is a public figure … but I’ll take it down.”
Ben Zur presented another instance in which Yeshua ordered Klein to take down a report relating to Lieberman, which was posted under the headline, “Lieberman folds: The agreement with Iran isn’t like the Munich agreement.”
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After that, Ben Zur presented correspondence between Yeshua and former minister Silvan Shalom, and claimed that Yeshua and Elovitch enlisted to help Shalom and blocked publication of items about his alleged acts of sexual harassment. In one of the messages, Yeshua wrote to Shalom, “Be strong and calm. I will do the best I can.” Ben Zur also presented correspondence between Yeshua and Shalom’s ex-wife, Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, in which Mozes asked Yeshua to publish her son’s video. Yeshua responded, “Sure, for you, anything.”
Netanyahu’s attorney also presented correspondence indicating that Yeshua tried to persuade former Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to advertise the Kulanu party on the Walla website during the 2015 election campaign. According to Ben Zur, Yeshua hinted to Kahlon that it would be good for him and his party to invest in advertising on Walla. Yeshua explained that he meant that the website had a lot of traffic.
Ben Zur pressed, “You write that you love him, but you’d hardly ever spoken.” To which Yeshua answered, “A sales pitch.”