Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a conference in Tel Aviv on February 14.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
During his five hours of questioning by police on Friday over his part in the “Bezeq affair,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that he contacted the telecom’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, who also owns the Walla! news site, regarding his coverage, but said it was out of “ideological motives,” Channel 10 News reported on Saturday night.
In the Bezeq case, otherwise known as Case 4000, police suspect Netanyahu acted to benefit Elovitch and Bezeq in return for favorable coverage on Walla!.
Netanyahu said that he never talked with Elovitch about giving benefits to Bezeq, nor that he would act on Elovitch’s behalf in exchange for favorable coverage, according to the report.
“Never happened,” he was quoted as telling the investigators.
On Friday afternoon, Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page in which he said: “I feel confident more than ever – there will be nothing [to the police probes].”
While the prime minister was questioned under caution at his official residence, five other people who are also involved in the case were questioned under caution at the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit headquarters in Lod: the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu; Elovitch; Elovitch’s wife, Iris; Netanyahu’s former media adviser, Nir Hefetz; and a former senior official in the Communications Ministry, who is considered close to Netanyahu.
Both the prime minister and his wife were reportedly confronted with recordings submitted to the police by Walla! CEO Ilan Yeshua, in which Elovitch and his wife can be heard pressuring Yeshua to implement favorable coverage for the couple.
In one text message, Iris Elovitch told Yeshua, “Help us because the Netanyahus are helping us and they will [keep] helping us.”
Sara Netanyahu also denied any wrongdoing in her questioning, according to reports.
She told interrogators that her husband “did not know about her text messages with Iris Elovitch.”
“I asked her as a friend [to carry out favorable coverage on Walla!], from ideological motives. I never dealt with benefits to Bezeq,” she was quoted as saying by Channel 10 News.
It was previously reported that Sara Netanyahu texted Iris Elovitch in 2015 regarding an article that was published on Walla! and reprimanded her.
“You are killing me. You are slaughtering us. You are ruining the country,” she wrote.
“What kind of a website is it?” she asked. “What’s going on here? Change it. Do something with it. You are the owners of the website. Do it quickly.”
Police sources have said the Netanyahus will be questioned again over regarding Case 4000.
On Sunday, a court discussion on a further remand extension for Elovitch and Hefetz is expected to take place.
Police are leaning to release the two to house arrest with several restrictions, Channel 2 News reported on Saturday. One of the restrictions for Hefetz is expected to be a ban on speaking with the prime minister.