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Netanyahu’s trial delayed once again, won’t resume until mid-September

Postponement, due to ‘personal reasons’ of key witness, is third time proceedings have been pushed off recently

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the first session of the evidentiary stage of his trial at Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2021.(Oren Ben Hakoon/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the first session of the evidentiary stage of his trial at Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2021.(Oren Ben Hakoon/Pool)

The Jerusalem District Court said on Monday that there would be a further delay in the trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, announcing proceedings will resume in September, instead of next Monday as planned.

Prosecutors requested ongoing testimony by former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua be put off due to “personal reasons,” a request ceded by the court.

With the court’s summer recess starting on July 21 and continuing through August, the next hearing is not expected to take place until September 13. The Jewish High Holidays in September and October will add further delays to proceedings.

It is the third time proceedings have been held up, following a court order that defense attorneys be provided with new evidence gleaned from messages and emails on the phone of Yeshua, a key witness in the case.

Prosecutors previously asked for a delay because they needed more time to provide all the necessary material, after defense attorneys argued that they were not given the texts from all relevant conversations on Yeshua’s phone during an earlier search.

There are currently another seven hearings scheduled for Yeshua’s testimony, meaning it is now expected to continue beyond the High Holiday period.

Former CEO of Walla news website Ilan Yeshua at the District Court in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last month, the court postponed the restart of the trial to allow defense attorneys time to review the new evidence. That decision came after the court partially accepted their argument that it would take longer to sift through some 350,000 messages and emails on Yeshua’s phone.

Yeshua is the first witness to give testimony in Netanyahu’s trial. He is a top witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have abused his powers when he served as both premier and communications minister from 2014 to 2017.

Netanyahu is accused of using his position in order to illicitly benefit the business interests of Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the telecom company Bezeq.

In exchange, Elovitch allegedly provided Netanyahu and his family with positive coverage on the Elovitch-owned Walla news website, including allowing the then-prime minister’s associates and family members to dictate editorial content and policy on a regular basis.

Former Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch (C) and his wife Iris at the Jerusalem District Court for a hearing in the graft trial of former prime minister Benajmin Netanyahu, on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The defense has been trying to show that, contrary to what Yeshua has been saying in court, orders to give certain stories greater or less visibility were commonplace not only from Netanyahu, but also from other politicians, businessmen and companies.

Netanyahu’s attorney Boaz Ben Tzur has argued that the Walla articles in question, said by prosecutors to have been published due to pressure from Netanyahu aides, were in fact initiated by website staff, and other news outlets posted similar stories.

In his testimony, Yeshua described how Netanyahu’s wife Sara, their son Yair, and aides to the former premier would systematically interfere in the running of Walla.

Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the case, while Elovitch and his wife, Iris, have been charged with bribery. All three defendants deny wrongdoing.

The trial is later expected to focus on two other cases against the former Israeli leader.

One case involves Netanyahu allegedly receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors.

Another case involves a seperate quid pro quo deal with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Arnon Mozes, for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening a rival newspaper.

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