Netanyahu’s lawyers: Positive coverage in media isn’t a bribe

The lawyers responded to Shimoni’s court ruling, which has similar characteristics to Case 4000.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Former Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (photo credit: Courtesy,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Former Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni
(photo credit: Courtesy,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Responding to a court ruling on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lawyer’s said that in the judicial history of democracies, there has never been a case in which positive media coverage has been considered a bribe, and that such a ruling “would severely compromise the freedom of the press.”
Former Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court earlier on Monday for taking bribes totaling NIS 155,000, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust.
What was notable, though, was that Shimoni gave favors in return for positive coverage in the media – a situation eerily similar to accusations against Netanyahu in Case 4000, the "Bezeq-Walla Affair," which are likely to set the legal backdrop for the prime minister’s defense team.
The team said that “contractor [Joel] Davidi bought a website critical of the mayor of Ashkelon for NIS 600,000 – and immediately closed it.”
“This is much worse than Case 4000,” the legal team said. “It has not been claimed that the prime minister received even a single penny” for favorable media coverage in the "Bezeq-Walla Affair."
“The court acquitted the defendant [Shimoni] of the charge that positive coverage was a bribe,” therefore not creating a precedent, Netanyahu's lawyers said.
Shimoni was indicted in February 2017. The indictment alleged that the mayor provided benefits to Davidi, who in return bought the "Ashkelon 10" website - which tended to portray Shimoni unfavorably – and then closed it. It also alleged that in another newspaper Davidi owned – Kol Ashkelon - he tipped the coverage in Shimoni's favor.
The indictment accuses Shimoni and the contractor of giving and receiving mutual benefits from the purchase and closure of the critical website. The prosecutor's office saw the purchase of the media company and the cessation of critical coverage as being a dramatic component of the bribery offense.

Yonah Jeremy Bob and
Maariv's Matan Wasserman contributed to this report.