The free Hebrew-language daily Israel Hayom lost NIS 730 million ($190 million) from its founding in 2007 until 2014, totaling roughly one shekel (26 cents) per newspaper printed, Haaretz reported Tuesday morning.
The paper, which has the highest circulation of any newspaper in Israel and is owned and financed by the American-Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, is a staunch voice of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.
On Sunday, Channel 2 reported that the Israel Police are in possession of recordings of a conversation between Netanyahu and Arnon “Noni” Moses — the owner and publisher of Israel Hayom rival Yedioth Ahronoth — in which Netanyahu suggested that he help prevent the publication of Israel Hayom’s weekend edition in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
The reported existence of such a recording came as a shock in Israel, as Netanyahu has repeatedly railed at Mozes over the years, claiming that the publisher was out to topple him and labeling political opponents who receive favorable coverage from Yedioth as “Nonists.”
In addition, the report of the recordings highlighted the potential existence of a troublesome relationship between Netanyahu with the free daily, despite repeated denials by Netanyahu over the years that he has any influence over Israel Hayom and its content.
The paper, which began by publishing five days a week and in 2009 introduced a weekend edition, has long been secretive in regards to its revenue streams, and in 2016 Israel Hayom urged that information on its sales be kept under wraps during a labor dispute with a former employee, according to Haaretz.
Israel Hayom’s funding and content has long been a source of contention, with opponents of Netanyahu claiming that the paper constitutes political campaign material for Netanyahu and Likud, a charge rejected by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira in October 2016.
On Monday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog charged that “the reports of the conversation between the prime minister and [Arnon] Noni Mozes, publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, match claims that the Israel Hayom newspaper is run by and for Benjamin Netanyahu” and called for an investigation into the close connection he alleged exists between Netanyahu and Israel Hayom.
Herzog also urged Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to remove Netanyahu immediately from his role as communications minister, saying that latest revelations and police investigations into the connection between the prime minister and the media show that Netanyahu has a significant interest and direct connection to the media, which disqualifies him to serve as minister.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.