Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: REINHARD KRAUSE/REUTERS+MARC SELLEM ISRAEL/THE JER)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his alleged deal with Walla! owner Shaul Elovitch - the focus of Case 4000 - to get the news website to run a series of articles attacking and defaming former Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Channel 12 revealed Monday night.
Possibly the most inflammatory story that Netanyahu allegedly worked to get Walla! to publish, was an item attacking Bennett’s wife Gilat for working as a chef in a non-kosher restaurant.
The purpose of the item,, the report claimed, was to undermine Bennett’s religious credentials. Other articles were intended to portray Bennett as being unstable and not ready for government office.
According to the report, Zeev Rubinstein, a former senior employee at Israel Bonds who is close to the Netanyahu family, served as the intermediary between the prime minister and Elovitch. Rubinstein, according to the report, received the information from Netanyahu and then passed it on to Elovitch with instructions for what to write, when to publish and where it needed to appear on the website.
Elovitch then passed on the information and instructions to former Walla! CEO Ilan Yeshua.
According to the report, Elovitch, Yeshua communicated via text messages and initially vetoed the article about Bennett’s wife since they viewed it as problematic. They did agree to publish other articles attacking Bennett.
After push back from Yeshua, Elovitch reportedly texted that he would try to explain to Rubinstein that the article against Bennett’s wife could backfire.
Later though, as the pressure from Netanyahu intensified, Elovitch texted Yeshua and insisted that they run the piece.
According to the report, Elovitch then texted Yeshua that Netanyahu was yelling about the article being placed to low on the site.
In response, Yeshua told Elovitch that if Netanyahu does not back off of Walla!, the website could face a mass exodus of reporters and editors who would quit over the extreme alleged interference.
The report also detailed alleged attempts by Netanyahu to get Walla! to attack Bennett’s late father Jim, an American immigrant to Israel, for his alleged involvement in incitement during protests against the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.
In response to the report, Bennett said Monday night that he loved his parents - Jim and Myrna Bennett - "who left a comfortable life in the US and moved to Israel out of Zionism.
"Any attempt to harm my father and my family is not moral and must stop," Bennett added. "As for the 'accusation,' during the Oslo Accords, my father, of blessed memory, was proudly right-wing and was pained by giving away parts of our land to Arafat and took part in many demonstrations against it.
"I admire his courage. The rest are lies. My father...never hurt anyone. I am very proud of my father and no article will change that," he added.