‘Control freak’ Netanyahu obsessed over media image, ex-aide testifies — Analysis

Benjamin Netanyahu was more than a “control freak” when it came to media coverage of himself, his one-time confidante and adviser told an Israeli court on Monday during the former prime minister’s ongoing corruption trial.

His influence over media affairs was “absolute and total, with no exceptions,” according to Nir Hefetz, a key prosecution witness who testified that Netanyahu – who also headed the communications ministry from 2014 to 2017 – devoted as much time to how the media portrayed him as he did to security concerns.

“Netanyahu is much more than a control freak. When it came to matters of the media, he wants to know everything – right down to the remote details,” Hefetz told the Jerusalem District Court in his opening testimony for the trial dubbed ‘Case 4000’. According to the allegations, Netanyahu tried to promote policies that would benefit Israeli telecom firm Bezeq in return of positive coverage through its news website.

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Hefetz testified also that the former Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who was consulted by Netanyahu’s wife and son in 2014, was removed from his ministry. It is believed that the family was able to reach an amicable agreement. “clear…decision that only Netanyahu would be communications minister,”He said that the move had not been approved. “open to negotiations or indecision.”

According to Israel Times newspaper, Hefetz made his way into the prosecution as a witness in a case after he was arrested and interrogated for two weeks. According to prosecutors, he is thought to have given them key evidence from when he was an interlocutor with Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch (Bezeq owner), who sought approval for the multi-million-dollar merger.

Hefetz claimed that their meetings with Elovitch focused on Elovitch’s next communication minister and that Netanyahu was the one who testified. “100%” aware of the media mogul’s concerns. Elovitch reportedly provided a list with potential candidates to the ministry position, choosing Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, the defense team is reportedly going to play excerpts of videotapes from Hefetz’s police interrogation, alleging that he was illegally pressured into turning state witness and arguing that his testimony should be nullified.

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