December 4, 2021

Netanyahu Spent as A lot Time on His Picture as Nationwide Safety, Says Nir Hefetz

5 min read

JERUSALEM—A fearsome fixer turned star witness lastly took the stand within the corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, exposing among the most intimate secrets and techniques of the previous Israeli prime minister’s time in workplace.

Bibi’s former right-hand man, Nir Hefetz, informed the court docket that his boss had been a useless man who spent as a lot time on media protection as nationwide safety. He informed the trial, which is gripping the nation, that Netanyahu was obsessive about consolidating energy and controlling his picture, all whereas he was being dominated by his spouse and son.

Hefetz turned state’s witness after he was jailed throughout a part of the police investigation into Netanyahu’s alleged crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of belief. With the sound of a small clutch of Netanyahu supporters chanting “there’s no pardon for flipped witnesses,” he entered the courtroom encircled by bodyguards. Hefetz, who was head of communications throughout Netanyahu’s final profitable re-election marketing campaign in 2015 started to offer damning testimony which may go on for months.

“Benjamin Netanyahu?” Hefetz requested, rhetorically, “In all the things having to do with media, he’s far more than a management freak. He calls for each final element. His management over all the things regarding media and his personal social media channels couldn’t be tighter.”

“Netanyahu spends at the least as a lot as his time on media as he spends on safety issues, together with on points that any outsider would contemplate trivial,” Hefetz mentioned, earlier than happening to explain the prime minister’s spouse, Sara Netanyahu as the one who appointed her husband’s chief of workers, spokesperson “and different positions” in Israel’s civil service.

Netanyahu was virtually fully preoccupied by hostile media, Hefetz mentioned.

All of this from a person who mentioned Netanyahu was nonetheless “a frontrunner I like and whose worldview I share.” He is a superb man of “extraordinary capacities,” Hefetz informed the court docket.

“Case 4000,” the one presently being heard by a 3 choose panel of the Jerusalem District Court docket, revolves round Netanyahu’s makes an attempt, as prime minister, to realize management over Walla Information, a well-liked Israeli information portal.

On the time of Netanyahu’s indictment, Legal professional Basic Avichai Mandelblitt described a “quid professional quo” between Netanyahu, who along with serving as prime minister appointed himself minister of communications between 2014 and 2017, and Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecommunications firm, which owned Walla.

Hefetz described the weird double appointment as the results of a household cabal. Sara Netanyahu and Yair, the Netanyahus’ then-24-year-old son, “insisted on the matter. It was a household determination that solely he may function minister of communications. The best way they noticed it, no different minister of communications, together with ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud occasion, would be capable of stand up to media strain, and could be dominated by the media. Solely he [Netanyahu] may bear up beneath the strain.”

Issues shortly went south. Hefetz testified that he discovered himself used as a go-between for Elovitch, who demanded regulatory favors that might have permitted him to construct Bezeq into a fair bigger conglomerate. In parallel, Yair Netanyahu was changing into consumed by the conviction that Elovitch and his spouse, Iris, who personally took management of the Walla web site’s protection of the Netanyahu household, had been double crossing his father.

Netanyahu’s skilled advisers disagreed, and Hefetz himself mentioned he believed the Elovichs had been doing all the things attainable to bend the web site they owned right into a kind of Pravda, a information web site that used its “status and repute for credibility” to tilt the scales in Netanyahu’s favor.

In accordance with Monday’s testimony, Elovitch, unnerved by Yair Netanyahu’s accusations, requested Hefetz “don’t they perceive we’ve given them the web site?” The web site, Hefetz mentioned, was “a present” to the Netanyahus.

However nothing would fulfill younger Yair, whose affect throughout this era was mounting in Netanyahu’s interior circle, based on Hefetz, and inflicting friction that distracted his father from the doing the work of the state for hours on finish, “typically every day, by no means lower than weekly.”

“Netanyahu had essentially the most management [in Walla],” Hefetz mentioned, portraying Netanyahu as one thing just like the chief of an underground comms store. “In Walla he may resolve what the headline could be, the place it will be on the homepage. Even among the many very, very supportive media, he didn’t have that extent of management.”

“At the least since 2009,” Hefetz testified, noting the date during which Netanyahu’s long run in workplace started, “his administration, management of and formulations for all interactions with any kind of media has been absolute. His degree of management over media issues isn’t excessive—it’s full and whole. It’s absolute, far more than what’s publicly recognized.”

“An unlimited about of his time is dedicated to this,” Hefetz continued. “Let me make clear that did not measure his time, however for my part, [media] is the primary factor that occupies him.”

Netanyahu was current for many of his former prime aide’s testimony, made up and camera-ready, sporting the basic Trump ensemble of boxy blue swimsuit and vibrant crimson tie. His private entourage has shrunk since his days in excessive workplace, with the phalanx of bodyguards and aides-de-camps who as soon as surrounded him gone. The crowds he and Yair, who’s now 30, have summoned to the streets to rebuke Israel’s judiciary, which they declare is engaged in a “coup d’etat” have by and enormous didn’t materialize.

A handful of Likud legislators attended the dramatic session in Jerusalem District Court docket Choose Rivka Friedman-Feldman’s small courtroom whereas, throughout city, within the Israeli parliament, the brand new authorities led by former Netanyahu minister Naftali Bennett offered a invoice which might restrict prime ministerial phrases to eight years.

“Hefetz isn’t simply one of many super-powerful,” mentioned Shelly Yechimovich, a former Labor Celebration chief who was as soon as the topic of threats from Hefetz, and now hosts a radio information program. “Folks trembled after they heard his title.”

Hefetz’s intimate information of the workings of Netanyahu’s interior circle has made his testimony essentially the most avidly anticipated among the many a whole lot of listed witnesses in Netanyahu’s trial, which is anticipated to final years.

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