Report: Netanyahu discussed reducing Yisrael Hayom distribution by 1/3

Attorney general delayed criminal probe of Yediot-Bibi talks to give cover to probe cigars-champagne case; Yediot publisher questioned by police for third day.

By ARIEL WHITMAN
January 16, 2017 22:04
3 minute read.
Netanyahu Israel HaYom

Distribution of the free daily ‘Israel HaYom’ – supported by Sheldon Adelson – the most widely read newspaper in Israel in 2010, according to a survey by TGI. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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With elections nearing at the end of 2014, Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed reducing Israel Hayom’s distribution by one-third in a hypothetical Knesset bill, as part of negotiations over Yediot’s coverage of Netanyahu, according to a Channel 2 report on Monday night.

New details purportedly from the transcript of a recording of their conversations – though Channel 2 has refused to confirm to The Jerusalem Post that it physically possesses an official transcript – describe a very concrete conversation between Mozes and Netanyahu about reducing Israel Hayom’s free distribution in return for Yediot being more positive to the prime minister.

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Mozes complained that Israel Hayom had once handed out 275,00 free copies a day, but was now up to 325,000 copies a day and possibly as high as 400,000 for the weekend, making it economically impossible to compete.

Netanyahu appeared to be ready to work on the issue, though he said distribution could not be reduced beyond a certain point.

Mozes further requested that Netanyahu reduce advertising in Israel Hayom.

When the prime minister acted surprised that he could have influence on the issue, Mozes responded that between 30% and 70% of the ads in Israel Hayom were from the government – meaning Netanyahu could directly impact the issue.

On that issue, Netanyahu was less compliant, though he did not dismiss dealing with the issue at some later point.

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Earlier on Monday, Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit gave a speech at Michlelet Netanya College, explaining that the reason that he had held off opening a full criminal probe into Case 2000 (the Mozes-Netanyahu talks) for several months was not for improper reasons.

Rather, he explained, it was to allow the police to check Case 1000 (the cigars-champagne gifts case) in “relative quiet.”

Mandelblit said that having seen the media circus which started over Case 2000 since the criminal probe was opened, he and the police agreed that they had made the right choice, including allowing the police to question dozens of witnesses.

He added that the media pressure on him to rush his decisions was unjustified.

Also on Monday, Mozes arrived at police headquarters for a third day of questioning under caution. Ron Yaron, editor of Yediot, was also questioned.

Mozes had been questioned the previous day for over eight hours at the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit headquarters.

In light of the recent media leaks regarding the case, Netanyahu took to Facebook on Sunday night and wrote that “during the last few days, an orchestrated media attack has been unleashed in order to take down the Likud government under my lead. Their method is simple. Day in and day out they publish selectively edited versions of the tapes, which are chosen for a reason.”

The premier lamented the fact that because the investigation was ongoing he was not allowed to share his version of events with the public.

“I do not have the opportunity to protect myself as long as the investigation is still open, I can’t tell the public the real story, which will show that no wrongdoing was done,” he wrote.

Netanyahu went on to say that he and his Likud party were against the Israel Hayom law, and that he did everything in his power to defeat it, including dissolving the government and calling for new elections.

According to purported transcripts released by Channel 2 on Saturday night, Netanyahu sought journalists who would cover him in a good light in exchange for pushing the 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.”

Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who was questioned by police on Wednesday regarding the receipt of allegedly illegal gifts, filed a complaint with Mandelblit on Sunday accusing the police of mistreatment and false leaks.

Netanyahu was questioned under caution for a total of eight hours in two sessions on January 2 and 5 regarding Case 2000 and Case 1000.

Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report.

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