A key prosecution witness in the trial of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday described animosity between the former prime minister and a media editor who was also indicted in one of the cases against Netanyahu
Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu confidant turned state witness, said in cross-examination that the former prime minister’s hatred of Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, was “difficult to express with words”.
“When Netanyahu talks about Mozes, it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I would leave the room so I wouldn’t have to be present,” Hefetz said on his 15th day of testimony.
Netanyahu is charged in three separate corruption cases. In the so-called 2000 case, he is accused of trying to strike a quid pro quo with Mozes for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening rival newspaper Israel Hayom.
Netanyahu blamed Mozes for all negative media stories against him, even those not on Mozes’ own site, Hefetz said Monday.
“Netanyahu is sure that every letter typed on any platform is Mozes. Netanyahu was telling me that I don’t understand, that I’m naive,” he said.
“That’s what the Netanyahus thought. This is their story. Netanyahu says his real opposition is Mozes. Almost all actions he links to Mozes.
Hefetz said that as Netanyahu’s media adviser, he tried to change that view, but gave up.
“Netanyahu wanted me to convey threats to Mozes, just to warn him that it’s not worth getting involved with the prime minister,” Hefetz said. He said Netanyahu did not explicitly tell him to threaten the publisher, but Hefetz understood that was what he wanted him to do.
Hefetz said the hate goes both ways and added that he thinks Yedioth Ahronoth is really biased against Netanyahu.
“I heard Mozes say you can’t believe a single word Netanyahu says,” Hefetz said.
Mozes does not normally attend the hearings, but went on Monday to hear testimony relating to the charges against him.
Hefetz’s cross-examination in so-called Case 4000 is complete, and Monday’s testimony related to Case 1000 and Case 2000.
Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.
In Case 4000, the most serious against the former prime minister, he allegedly worked to illicitly and profitably profit from the business interests of the majority shareholder of the Bezeq media company, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for coverage positive on the Walla news site owned by Elovitch.
In Case 1000, he is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from two billionaires – Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian mogul James Packer.
On Monday, Hefetz said he was unaware of the gifts Milchan had given the Netanyahus, but described the close relationship between the two parties.
Hefetz said he was also unaware of Packer’s gifts, other than “10 tickets to a Mariah Carey show.”
Netanyahu has been accused of accepting gifts including expensive cigars and champagne. Hefetz said on Monday that there had been a strict policy to “not take pictures of Netanyahu smoking cigars or eating.”
Netanyahu denies all allegations against him and says the charges were fabricated by a biased police force and prosecution, overseen by a weak attorney general, in cahoots with political opponents and the media.
In recent testimony, Hefetz said Netanyahu covered his tracks by shredding documents, even “shopping lists,” that he had tried to “steal state funds for personal needs” from dozens of times, and that Hefetz feared the former prime minister was unfit to serve.