Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters a security cabinet meeting, August 2017.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu falsely invoked the name of one of England’s richest men in an effort to obtain better coverage from a hostile newspaper publisher, sources close to the billionaire told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Police sources told Channel 2 that in a conversation Netanyahu taped, he offered to help Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes sell the newspaper in an effort to ease its reports against him. He told Mozes that a potential buyer was Ukrainian-born American-British businessman and philanthropist Sir Leonard “Len” Blavatnik.
The report said police want to question Blavatnik in their investigation of Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is accused of colluding with Mozes against the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom
so he would receive positive coverage from both papers.
Multiple sources close to Blavatnik said on Sunday that the billionaire was not close to Netanyahu, did not have an opinion on Israeli politics, rarely comes to Israel and would not have been interested in purchasing Yediot Aharonot
A source said that 10 years ago, Blavatnik was approached about purchasing the Maariv
newspaper, which was later bought by Jerusalem Post
owner Eli Azur, but Blavatnik decided against the purchase. “He decided not to enter print journalism,” the source said. “He realized that it wasn’t a very good investment.”
Two years ago, Blavatnik purchased Israeli Channel 10, which has a reputation of being anti-Netanyahu. Blavatnik, Aviv Giladi, and the Recanati family each own one-third of the RGE Group, which ultimately bought Channel 10 and Israel’s sports channel.
Blavatnik made his fortune by investing in many companies through his own enterprise, Access Industries. In the Sunday Times Rich List of 2015, Blavatnik was listed as the United Kingdom’s richest person, with a fortune of £16.9 billion. In 2017, Blavatnik, who works out of New York and London, received a knighthood for his philanthropy.
In Israel, Blavatnik's family foundation has contributed $20 million to Tel Aviv University. He also gives scholarships to young Israeli scientists and sponsors the Colel Chabad food bank, which feeds the hungry throughout the country.
He first did business in Israel in 2012 when Access Industries bought Clal Industries, which owns Nesher Cement and ClalTech, a company which invests in Israeli hi-tech. Blavatnik is also a major investor in the Israeli company Gett Taxi.
“Len acts in Israel out of love of Israel and love of business,” a source close to him said. “He is very Zionistic.”
Another source said that while Blavatnik has met Netanyahu and was a proud Jew, he would not try to be friends with the prime minister like other international billionaires.
“That’s just not his style,” the source said.