(photo credit: REUTERS)
Another addition to the seemingly endless drip of leaks regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption investigation materialized on Sunday night, this time with reports that Netanyahu attempted to broker billionaire investors to help his supposed arch rival, Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes, cope with his paper’s financial difficulties – in exchange for skewing the newspaper coverage in favor of the prime minister.
According to the report on Channel 2, 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 constitute breach of trust. The report also named Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and German media conglomerate Axel Springer as potential investors.
This comes as Mozes was questioned under caution by police for a second time on Sunday regarding allegations that Netanyahu and Mozes sought to conspire to weaken Israel HaYom
, which is owned by the premier’s confidante, US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Netanyahu will be questioned under caution for a third time in the corruption investigation.
Mozes arrived at the offices of the Lahav 433 National Fraud Unit on Sunday morning at around 10:00 o’clock, and was only released eight and half hours later. Mozes declined to speak with media upon entering and exiting the National Fraud Unit.
Despite being seen as bitter enemies, transcripts of two 2014 conversations between the media mogul and the prime minister have been leaked to Channel 2 over the past week, illuminating alleged behind-thescenes deal making. According to transcripts reported on Saturday night, Netanyahu sought journalists who would cover him in a good light in exchange for pushing a 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.”
During a meeting with Likud ministers Sunday before the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu dismissed the transcripts of his conversations with Mozes as “a campaign of tendentious leaks designed to mislead the public and distort the picture.”
The premier reiterated previous assertions he has made denying any wrongdoing, adding that he could not divulge further details of the matter. “As I said, and you know, there will be nothing because there is nothing,” he said.
Referring to a demonstration on Saturday night in Tel Aviv, where hundreds gathered to protest against him, Netanyahu remarked, “I saw the processions of the Left on Saturday night. I once again say to our friends in the opposition – don’t rush with the celebrations.”
Meanwhile, Sara Netanyahu, who was questioned by police on Wednesday regarding the receipt of allegedly illegal gifts, filed a complaint with Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit on Sunday accusing the police of mistreatment and false leaks.
According to Sara’s lawyer Yossi Cohen, Sara was bullied and treated with “contempt and disrespect.”
Netanyahu was questioned under caution for a total of eight hours in two sessions on January 2 and 5 regarding the Mozes- Netanyahu conversation, termed Case 2000, and in Case 1000, which deals with him allegedly receiving illegal gifts from Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
Ron Yaron, editor-in-chief of Yediot
, argued in a P. 1 column on Sunday that employees of the paper would not have stood for a Mozes-Netanyahu deal to skew the paper toward favorable coverage of the prime minister.
“There’s no way that this newspaper would have survived this earthquake,” Yaron said in his column, referring to remarks in the leaked conversation where Mozes said skewing the coverage would cause an “earthquake.”
“We all, as one, would leave and seek another home,” Yaron said.
He also defended Mozes, saying the publisher is “endlessly loyal to the readers of this paper, and to his life’s work that his father and grandfather established 77 years ago.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio on Sunday that he “stands by the prime minister’s side,” and that the mere fact of a police investigation does not require any deliberations on whether Netanyahu should resign.Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.