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Ex-Walla CEO: I was told to take down news item that would block favors from Netanyahu

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial continues in Jerusalem, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua testifies that he was forced to take down a story from the news outlet about Netanyahu’s wife Sara because it could have harmed his employers’ chances at receiving a regulatory favor from the premier.

Yeshua is a key witness in Case 4000, in which the prime minister is accused of establishing an illegal quid pro quo with the owners of Walla in which they gave him favorable news coverage and he granted them regulatory favors.

The prosecution shows text messages sent to Yeshua from the former owner of Walla news, Shaul Elovitch, who controlled the website through his telecommunications firm Bezeq, in which he was told, “Take [the article] down now. It’ll prevent me from getting permission for Yes. I’ll kill you.”

Former CEO of the Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the District Court in Jerusalem, April 7, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yeshua explains that Elovitch was referring to a regulatory decision that he was waiting for from Netanyahu that would allow his company to purchase shares in the Yes television service provider. “At least that’s what I understood,” he adds.

The article in question was about a scandal at the time involving Sara Netanyahu and her treatment of the caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The prosecution shows additional messages between Yeshua and his superiors, showing that the article had been taken off the homepage and removed from the website’s Facebook page, but that he was reprimanded for not removing the story from the outlet’s list of recent push notifications.

“I was reprimanded because I didn’t clean it up all the way,” Yeshua says.

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