The Jewish Chronicle



THE FIRST three days of the evidentiar­y stage in Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial in Jerusalem’s District Court this week were a sobering experience for journalist­s. Every establishe­d hack has experience­d political pressure but the detailed account of the first prosecutio­n witness, Ilan Yeshua, former CEO of Walla, of how his owners had forced him to put Israel’s most popular website at the disposal of the prime minister and his family, was something else.

At one point during the 2015 election, Shaul Elovich (another defendant in the trial), chairman and main shareholde­r of Bezeq, the telecoms giant that owned Walla, ordered Mr Yeshua not to report statements by opposition leaders or to add their comments to stories quoting the prime minister. When he remonstrat­ed that they would lose all credibilit­y as a news organisati­on, his employer answered that he didn’t care: “Walla is a gram. Bezeq is a ton.” He needed the prime minister’s good graces and that was the only thing that mattered.

As Mr Yeshua took that stand on Monday, on the other side of town, at President Rivlin’s official residence, representa­tives of the 13 parties elected to the new Knesset were arriving for consultati­ons on the candidate who would get the first crack at forming a new government. For viewers watching the split-screen reporting on TV, it was like seeing two acts of a play simultaneo­usly.

President Rivlin angered the Likud delegation when he wondered aloud whether “ethical considerat­ions” could be part of his decision upon whom to confer the mandate.

Everyone in the room was aware that when Mr Yeshua was questioned by the police, he had spoken of how, seven years earlier, Mr Elovich had directed him to report favourably on the prime minister’s attempts to delay the presidenti­al election, in the hope of preventing Mr Rivlin, a fellow Likudnik but too independen­t-minded, from winning.

Later on, when the delegation from Yamina arrived to recommend that their leader Naftali Bennett get the mandate, Mr Yeshua was talking of how he had received “a series of documents” by email, which included informatio­n which he was to use in stories attacking Mr Bennett, his wife and his father.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom