MKs castigate Netanyahu as new details emerge about alleged illegal proposal to publisher

As a report reveals a transcript of a conversation between the prime minister and media mogual Noni Mozes, MKs slam the PM and express concern over police probe.

By ARIK BENDER,
January 14, 2017 18:24
4 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Knesset members publicly slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday following the revelation of new details regarding the suspicious proposition the premier allegedly made in his secret meetings with media mogul and owner of Yedioth Aharonot, Arnon (Noni) Mozes.

MK Stav Shafir (Zionist Union) took to social media to express her criticism of the prime minister, posting on Facebook that "Netanyahu is holding on to his rule out of a passion for power and [because of] the perks the role brings with it, but not in order to use his power for the benefit of the country."

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In her post Shafir called Netanyahu "the first Israeli prime minister of the mafia" and added that "this is why he has decided to crash and run over all the mechanisms that might rein in his power or expose its injustices to the public."

The criticism came not only from the direction of opposition members but also from ministers and Knesset members from Netanyahu's party, the Likud. MK David Bitan, who is considered by many a close confidante of the prime minister and who is mockingly dubbed by the Israeli Left "Netanyahu's puppet," said in an interview to Channel 10 that "after the investigation ends, Netanyahu will have to give up his role as Communications Minister."

According to a Channel 2 report that came out on Friday, Netanyahu told Mozes in their alleged 2014 meetings that he will personally mediate between Mozes and several German businessmen who could invest in the former's publication.

The report released excerpts from the transcript of a conversation between Netanyahu and Mozes in which the pair reportedly discussed the possibility of shutting down the weekend supplement of Israel Hayom (a daily, free publication that serves as the main competitor to Mozes'  Yedioth).
Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017

The exchange between the prime minister and the Yedioth publisher reportedly included the following:



Mozes: "What's the bottom line? How can we do this fast?"
Netanyahu: "We can legislate."
Netanyahu: "I want to speak to the redhead [nickname reportedly affiliated with Israel Hayom owner and Netanyahu confidante, American billioner Sheldon Adelson], he's coming to Israel in two weeks."
Mozes: "We need to see how we can do something that he can live with, perhaps run a different bill, I want to make it easier, I'm not looking to make this more difficult."
Mozes: "Regarding the topic of the amounts we discussed. We can do it as a compromise with him, I'm saying this from a good place, not from a bad place."
Netanyahu: "I don't think he would be OK with it but..."

This transcript sheds further light on the exchange between Netanyahu and Mozes and follows other reports that suggested that the prime minister offered Mozes that they push forward a law that will force Israel Hayom to start charging money from its readers, thus weakening the daily publication that is known to have cut into the revenues of Yedioth Aharonot.

The new details revealed about the nature of the meetings between Netanyahu and Mozes come forward as the media continues to raise questions regarding the development of Case 2000, the ongoing police investigation against the premier.

At the center of the investigation is the suspicion that Netanyahu received improper gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from Israeli and foreign businessmen.

Referring to the prime minister's so-called "obsession" with the Israeli media and citing Netanayhu's public attacks of prominent Israeli journalists he deemed too critical of him (Uvda's Ilana Dayan and Channel 10 analyst Raviv Druker), multiple Knesset members demanded that the full transcript of the conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes be revealed to the public.

MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said: "The attorney general has to make the decision whether to file an indictment bill that will demand the prompt publication of the full transcript or not. On a public level, this is a very grave thing. Mandelblit has to commit now so that we know what happened there, there's a risk here that the public will lose faith in the government and in the media."

Another Yesh Atid MK, Meir Cohen, said that "this is the first time since this government has been established that the smell of new elections can be sensed in the air. I'm getting this spirit from Likud MKs, they're telling me:'we sense that this is the end.'"

Cohen added that this is "one of the most difficult affairs to have happened in the State of Israel."

Netanyahu remains adamant in his denial of the allegations and was quoted as saying that "they will find nothing because there is nothing," and that he advises "my friends in the opposition not to begin celebrating because there is no cause for celebrations."

A Channel 10 report on Saturday said that police believe that an indictment should be filed in the gifts affair, dubbed by police Case 1000.

According to the report, police and the State Attorney's office don't believe the prime minister's claims that his interactions with Israeli film producer and businessman Arnon Milchan were friendship-based or that the cigars and alcohol worth thousands of shekels that the latter gave Netanyahu were part of a mutual gift-giving between friends.  

However, it remains to be decided by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit whether to forge ahead with an indictment , and he has yet to have made a decision. Channel 10 reports that police believe the exchange between Netanyahu and Milchan is nothing less than bribery. Attorney-General Mandelblit is expected to weigh in on the matter.

A criminal indictment regarding the exchange between Netanyahu and Mozes, also known by police as Case 2000, is not as certain.

Mozes is set to be questioned by police on Sunday.

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