(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Amos Regev, and Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes appeared before police on Tuesday to give statements, and to be questioned under caution in Mozes’s case, regarding the ongoing criminal investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While Yair is not a suspect in the investigation, police reportedly suspect Australian billionaire James Packer of giving Yair lavish gifts, including free hotel rooms and flights, in order to influence the elder Netanyahu, in what police have termed Case 1000. Allegations that the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, and the prime minister received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of champagne and cigars from Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan are also included in Case 1000. Sara Netanyahu gave a statement on Wednesday, while the prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Packer, a friend of the Netanyahu family, also faces a police probe into his relationship with Mossad director Yossi Cohen.
According to a Tuesday report on Channel 10, the State Attorney’s Office began checking two months ago into allegations that Packer gave Cohen free tickets to a concert featuring Mariah Carey, Packer’s former fiancé, worth thousands of dollars, and also into whether Packer paid for Cohen’s hotel room.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has the responsibility of reviewing the case and deciding whether it merits a full-blown investigation or closure.
Noni Mozes was questioned, for the third time this week, for eight hours, and Amos Regev gave a statement at the Lahav 433 fraud unit headquarters in Lod regarding Case 2000. The case deals with the ongoing saga of an alleged Netanyahu-Mozes attempt to weaken Israel Hayom in exchange for favorable coverage of the prime minister, the details of which are being leaked on a nightly basis. Yediot Aharonot editor- in-chief Ron Yaron gave a statement in the investigation on Monday.
Regev is expected to have given a statement on the nature of Israel Hayom’s relationship with the prime minister and any knowledge he had of an alleged Netanyahu- Mozes deal to weaken the paper.
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich referred to the investigation while at an event at the Rahat Community Center on Tuesday, saying he “expects that the investigation will not be very long” and that the police are “working as quickly as possible.”
Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017
On Monday, it was reported that Mozes and Netanyahu discussed reducing Israel Hayom’s distribution by onethird in a hypothetical Knesset bill, as part of negotiations over Yediot’s coverage of Netanyahu.
According to a Channel 2 report, details purportedly from the transcript of a recording of their conversations – though Channel 2 has Post that it possesses a physical copy of the transcript – describe a conversation between Mozes and Netanyahu about reducing Israel Hayom’s free distribution in return for Yediot being more positive on the prime minister.
Mozes complained that Israel Hayom had once handed out 275,00 free copies a day, but is now up to 325,000 copies a day and possibly as high as 400,000 for the weekend, making it economically impossible to compete.
Netanyahu appeared to be ready to work on the issue, though he said distribution could not be reduced beyond a certain point.
Mozes further requested that Netanyahu reduce advertising in Israel Hayom.
When the prime minister acted surprised that he could have influence on the issue, Mozes responded that between 30% and 70% of the ads in Israel Hayom are from the government – meaning Netanyahu could directly impact the issue.
On that issue, Netanyahu was less compliant, though he did not dismiss dealing with it at some later point.
According to the report on Channel 2 on Sunday, Netanyahu set up meetings between Mozes and Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, both of whom are already suspects in a separate case of having given Netanyahu gifts that constituted a breach of trust. The report also named Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and German media conglomerate Axel Springer as potential investors.
A separate Channel 2 report on Saturday night leaked transcripts of Netanyahu seeking journalists who would cover him in a good light in exchange for pushing the 2014 bill that would end the free distribution of Israel Hayom. In 2014, Netanyahu told the media mogul to “lower the level of hostility toward him from 9.5 to 7.5,” to which Mozes responded, “I get it. Don’t worry about it – we need to ensure that you will be prime minister.”
In light of the recent media leaks regarding the case, Netanyahu took to Facebook on Sunday night and wrote that “during the last few days, an orchestrated media attack has been unleashed in order to take down the Likud government under my lead. Their method is simple. Day in and day out, they publish selectively edited versions of the tapes, which are chosen for a reason.”
Netanyahu went on to say that he and his Likud Party were against the Israel Hayom law, and that he did everything in his power to defeat it, including dissolving the government and calling for new elections. He was questioned under caution for a total of eight hours in two sessions on January 2 and 5 regarding Case 2000 and Case 1000.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.