With the inclusion of former aides to the premier and senior executives at one of Israel’s largest media companies, the prosecution in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu graft trial announced on Tuesday the list of witnesses to be called in Case 4000, considered the most serious of the three cases the premier is facing.
In the case, Netanyahu is accused of approving regulatory moves benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch and Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site. It is the case in which Netanyahu faces the most serious charge — bribery — as well as fraud and breach of trust.
Elovitch and his wife, Iris Elovitch, each also face bribery charges in Case 4000.
A number of witnesses will be initially called to testify including Walla’s CEO Ilan Yeshua and former Netanyahu aide turned key state’s witness Nir Hefetz, the prosecution said.
Also on the list are former Walla editor-in-chief Aviram Elad, Michal Klein, Amit Eshel, Avi Berger, former antitrust commissioner Dror Strum, Felix Cohen, Nir Schwartz, Yaniv Peleg, former Bezeq CEO Moti Elmaliach, Kim Levy, journalist Dov Gil-har, Boaz Stembler, former Netanyahu spokesman Shai Hayek, Reli Leshem, Talya Gerstler, Yariv Amiad, case investigator Polina Globesman, and former director-general of the Communications Ministry Eden Bar Tal.
According to the prosecution announcement, the list of witnesses is subject to change.
The next court date in Netanyahu’s corruption trial is set for December 6. He will be in attendance for the final stage of preliminary arguments.
After that, the trial is set to speed up in January and begin to hear testimony from witnesses, with hearings to be held three times a week
In two other cases, dubbed by police “1000” and “2000,” Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for, respectively, allegedly soliciting and receiving illegal gifts in exchange for helping billionaire friends, and attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for positive media coverage.
Netanyahu appeared at the Jerusalem District Court in May for the start of his trial, making him the first sitting Israeli premier to stand trial on criminal charges.
The prime minister has denied wrongdoing and claimed the indictment against him was an effort by the media, political rivals, law enforcement and prosecutors to force him out of office.