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.