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Report: New texts from ex-Walla CEO’s phone strengthen case against Netanyahu

Correspondence also implies other politicians and business people made requests from Ilan Yeshua during his time in the post; trial set to resume July 19

Former CEO of Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on criminal allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, at the District Court in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former CEO of Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives for his testimony at in the case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on criminal allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, at the District Court in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New correspondence found on the phone of former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua appears to strengthen prosecutors’ case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a television report Monday.

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.

The ex-premier is accused of illicitly benefiting the business interests of Bezeq telecom company’s controlling shareholder Elovitch. 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.

According to Channel 13 news, several new conversations have been found on Yeshua’s cellphone between him, the Elovitches and Walla staff. The report said these shine further light on the demands the Netanyahu family allegedly made of the news site.

According to the report, some of those demands were not known to the prosecution until now, and the state intends to bring the new evidence before the court.

It did not provide details on the actual content of the conversations.

Additionally, the correspondents included other politicians and business people seeking positive coverage or other requests from Walla, including former Bezeq CEO and former Labor party head Avi Gabbay, according to Channel 13.

Then-Labor party leader Avi Gabbay speaks during a party conference in Tel Aviv, June 23, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The expanded search of Yeshua’s phone will likely set back the overall trial schedule further as his cross-examination will require more time to complete if new evidence is introduced. The cross-examination has already lasted almost a month and had been expected to take several more weeks even without the introduction of additional evidence.

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 on behalf of not only Netanyahu but also other politicians, businessmen, and companies, and were sometimes unrelated to the Elovitches.

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

In his testimony, Yeshua has described how Netanyahu’s wife Sara, their son Yair, and aides to the then-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 will restart Monday, after being pushed back from July 12.

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