Report: Top Israeli newspaper publisher central figure in Netanyahu probe
Arnon “Noni” Mozes, publisher of Yediot Aharonot, is reportedly at the center of the corruption investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was revealed on Sunday.
According to a report on Channel 2, Mozes and Netanyahu attempted to negotiate sympathetic coverage of the prime minister in return for the weakening of Yediot competitor Israel Hayom.
The latest development came as the police reportedly obtained an audio recording of Netanyahu negotiating mutual benefits with Mozes when they searched the cellphone and computer of Ari Harow, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, who was questioned in July.
Netanyahu commented on Sunday on the ongoing investigation saying, “I advise my friends in the opposition not to celebrate because there is no cause for celebration. You replace the government through the ballot box.”
According to a report in Haaretz on Sunday, Netanyahu could be heard on the recording negotiating for sympathy to help him remain in office, in exchange for “huge financial benefits.” The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the investigation, and a police spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.
Israel Hayom is owned by Netanyahu confidante and US billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
The widely circulated, freely distributed newspaper is the main competitor of Yediot, and has significantly cut into the latter’s advertising revenue.
Israel Hayom is generally seen as pro-Netanyahu, while Yediot is seen by some, including the prime minister, as being overly critical.
Netanyahu was questioned under caution by police for a total of eight hours in two sessions last week regarding the reported audio recording, called “Case 2000” by police, and regarding Case 1000, which deals with allegations that Netanyahu received illegal gifts from businessmen – particularly from Israeli-born movie mogul Arnon Milchan.
The Mozes-Netanyahu recording reportedly could underpin the police’s “Case 2000” against Netanyahu.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will conclude the investigation into the corruption allegations within the next few weeks, Channel 2 reported. However, Mandelblit and state prosecutor Shai Nitzan disagree with police and the Jerusalem district attorney that the case is criminal.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting later Sunday morning, Netanyahu denied the accumulating allegations against him.
“To my dismay, I cannot provide details. What I can tell you today, now that I know what this is about, and I will tell you this with full confidence: Nothing will be found because there is nothing,” he said.
“What we do have here is wrong, incessant pressure that media elements are applying on law enforcement officials. They’re blowing balloons and hot air is coming out of them one by one. It will be the same in this case,” Netanyahu asserted.
Meanwhile, coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) told Army Radio on Sunday that even if Netanyahu is indicted he should not resign.
“There will be no indictment. Even if there is a situation in which it will happen – and I do not see it happening – the prime minister should stay in office,” he said.
MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) called on Netanyahu to resign due to the new revelations.
“Netanyahu should lay down the keys, and after him, all of those who are responsible for concealing the investigations,” said Margalit.
“Over six months, there are recordings indicating Netanyahu’s corruption. Hiding the investigations is bad as the allegations themselves.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On said: “The prime minister cannot stay in office even one more moment. Coordinating benefits with a media outlet for positive coverage is ‘governmental blackmailing.’ Netanyahu acts like a wheeler- dealer and it proves that he has been prime minister for too long. He should resign. Netanyahu uses Israel Hayom as his toy, in order to eliminate criticism against him.”
Despite Sunday’s reports, Netanyahu continued to repeat the mantra he has used throughout this investigation and over the preceding months: “There will be nothing because there is nothing.”