Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims he lied during a conversation with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes in order to expose the media mogul, according to a report aired on Channel 10 Wednesday evening.
Channel 10 quoted authorities as adding, however, that this was not Netanyahu's original version of events, a fact that would have bearing on the investigation.
The report also sites an anonymous source that claims there is a "consensus" in the Justice Ministry that suspects Mozes of proposing bribes in the meetings with Netanyahu. The source added that corruption allegations connected with Netanyahu were still not clear.
Netanyahu and Moses have been embroiled in a corruption affair after it was revealed earlier this month that the two had held meetings in order to negotiate sympathetic coverage of the prime minister in return for the weakening of Yediot competitor Israel Hayom.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin was questioned by police on Sunday as a part of an ongoing corruption investigation, termed Case 2000, into Netanyahu’s alleged dealings with Mozes, multiple Hebrew media sources reported on Wednesday.
According to a report in Channel 2, Levin was questioned on his role in promoting a 2014 bill termed the "Israel Hayom" bill, which sought to require the paper to cease its free distribution.
Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) is also reported to give testimony on the genesis of the 2014 Israel Hayom bill.
Allegations are pouring in against Yediot alleging biased coverage towards certain MKs and blacklists of others.
MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) alleged in a post on her Facebook page that she was “blacklisted” by Yediot Ahronoth for voting against the Israel Hayom bill and that senior Yedioth journalists knew about the alleged Netanyahu-Mozes meetings.
"If the reports are true, Netanyahu and Mozes should go directly to jail. But it is about time to reveal the true face of some senior figures in Yedioth that act like they never suspected that something like that could happen in their paper.”
"The truth is that deals such as this could not be executed without cooperation of senior figures in the paper, without the editors and the journalists knowing about it."
The Channel 10 report further alleged Wednesday that Netanyahu discussed reducing the amount of commercial ads in Yediot’s main competitor Israel Hayom in recorded conversations with Mozes. It was previously reported that the two discussed discontinuing Israel Hayom’s weekend edition. Mozes is due to be questioned again by police in the coming days the report said.
The latest development came as the police reportedly obtained an audio recording of Netanyahu negotiating mutual benefits with Mozes when they searched the cellphone and computer of Ari Harow, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, who was questioned in July.
According to a report in Haaretz on Sunday, Netanyahu could be heard on the recording negotiating for sympathy to help him remain in office, in exchange for “huge financial benefits.” The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the investigation, and a police spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.
Netanyahu commented on Sunday on the ongoing investigation saying, “I advise my friends in the opposition not to celebrate because there is no cause for celebration. You replace the government through the ballot box.”
Israel Hayom is owned by Netanyahu confidante and US billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Netanyahu is also being investigated by authorities in a second affair in which he is suspected of accepting illegal gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of shekels from wealthy business associates, including expensive cigars and alcohol.
Channel 10 also reported that Sara Netanyahu is expected to be questioned by police about gifts received by the couple, possibly as soon as tomorrow.
At a meeting of the Likud faction Wednesday night, Netanyahu said he would not provide information on the case but is “aware of all the details,” adding his oft repeated mantra throughout the investigation: “There will be nothing, because there is nothing.”
Netanyahu has so far been questioned by police on three separate occasions since the allegations were made public.
Udi Shaham and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.