Nir Hefetz, a former spokesperson for Benjamin Netanyahu, is a key prosecution witness in the corruption trial against ex-Israeli prime minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister and now opposition leader, denies any wrongdoing.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister and now opposition leader, denies any wrongdoing. (Reuters)

A one-time confidant to Benjamin Netanyahu has testified against him in the former Israeli prime minister's corruption trial.

"Netanyahu spends at least as much as his time on media as he spends on security matters, including on matters an outsider would consider nonsense," Nir Hefetz told the court on Monday.

Netanyahu was a “control freak” when it comes to his public image, and that “his control over everything relating to media matters and in his social media channels could not be higher,” he added.

Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for 12 years until June, has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

He allegedly gave regulatory favours to media tycoons in return for positive press coverage and receipt of gifts, including cigars and champagne.

Hefetz signed a state’s witness deal and provided investigators with recordings of conversations with Netanyahu and his family, after he was arrested in 2018 in connection with one of Netanyahu's corruption cases.
Hefetz signed a state’s witness deal and provided investigators with recordings of conversations with Netanyahu and his family, after he was arrested in 2018 in connection with one of Netanyahu's corruption cases. (Reuters)

The trial polarising Israelis

Netanyahu, 72, is not required to attend the trial hearings and he has made few court appearances.

He made no comment to reporters as slogans shouted outside in the street by a cluster of his supporters wafted into the courtroom who faced off with a small group of anti-Netanyahu protesters.

Netanyahu's trial has been a polarising issue for Israelis. 

His loyal supporters bemoan it as a left-wing witch-hunt that targeted a popular right-wing leader, while his staunch critics hail it as the triumph of law over grave government corruption that had plunged Israel into two years of political turmoil.

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Three separate cases

Netanyahu is the defendant in three separate cases.

The first alleges 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 paper in exchange for promoting legislation that would have harmed the news outlet's chief rival, a free pro-Netanyahu daily. 

The third, nicknamed Case 4000, alleges that Netanyahu promoted legislation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the owner of Israeli telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage on its Walla news site.

READ MORE:  Israel court postpones key testimony in Netanyahu corruption trial

Source: TRTWorld and agencies