Nir Hefetz, former media adviser, is expected to give damning evidence in the trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A key witness to the prosecution has begun testifying in the trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is charged with fraud, breach of trust and corruption.
Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the former prime minister and his family, testified in a Jerusalem district court on Monday about regulatory favors Netanyahu allegedly gave to media powers in exchange for positive press coverage and the receipt of gifts.
Hefetz said in his opening testimony that Netanyahu was a “control freak” as far as his public image was concerned, and that “his control over everything related to media matters and in his social media channels could not be higher”.
“Netanyahu spends at least as much of his time on the media as he spends on security matters, including matters that an outsider would consider nonsense,” Hefetz told the court.
The former journalist became the Netanyahu family’s spokesman and adviser in 2014. In 2018, after being arrested in connection with one of Netanyahu’s corruption cases, he signed a state witness agreement and investigators of recordings of conversations with Netanyahu and his family provided.
He is one of a small group of former aides who will turn the state witness against the country’s former prime minister and is expected to testify critically in a few weeks.
Netanyahu, now opposition leader, attended the trial despite not having a mandate to do so. He made no comment to reporters as a group of his supporters confronted a small group of anti-Netanyahu protesters outside the court.
The trial was delayed by a week after Netanyahu’s defense attorneys asked for time to review new evidence. The information presented last week claimed that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, had accepted an expensive bracelet as a gift from two billionaire friends, Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
The 72-year-old former leader is an accused in three separate cases. The first claims that Netanyahu received gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from wealthy friends, including Milchan and Packer.
In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of orchestrating positive coverage in a major Israeli newspaper in exchange for promoting legislation that would harm the news channel’s main opponent.
The third, nicknamed Case 4000, claims that Netanyahu promoted hundreds of millions of dollars worth of legislation to the owner of the Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage on his Walla news website.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing. He calls to retire rejected of the country’s leadership after he was indicted in 2019 and repeatedly lashed out at law enforcement, the media and the courts for launching a “witch hunt” against him.
His trial formally began in 2020, while the country was embroiled in a two-year political crisis with four repeat elections, with voters stuck over Netanyahu’s leadership and charge.
Netanyahu and his longtime Likud party were may be forced out in June after a coalition united in their opposition to the long-serving prime minister formed a government.