Media mogul and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes told Benjamin Netanyahu he would do everything he could to keep the prime minister in power if Netanyahu agreed to promote legislation to curtail the distribution of his newspaper’s main competitor, Israeli media reported Tuesday.
Both Netanyahu and Mozes will be questioned by police again in the coming days, according to Channel 2. Citing sources in the Justice Ministry, the Haaretz newspaper reported Tuesday that police and prosecutors believe the deal that was discussed — but not implemented — constitutes bribery.
The apparent deal on the table would have seen the prime minister work to reduce the circulation of the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily newspaper. In exchange for pushing a bill to require the free daily to have a cover charge, Netanyahu would enjoy more favorable coverage in Yedioth.
“If we can come to an agreement on the law (to limit Israel Hayom), I will do all I can to make sure you stay here (as prime minister) as long as you want,” Channel 2 quoted Mozes as saying in recordings of conversations between the two. “I’m looking you in the eye, and saying this as clearly as I can.”
Leaks from the ongoing investigations into Netanyahu continued to trickle out during the day on Tuesday, with the recordings said to prove, among other things, that Netanyahu initiated the meetings.
Channel 2 said police have tapes of two meetings between Netanyahu and Mozes, but believe they met on many more occasions during 2014.
As well as initiating the meetings, Netanyahu was previously reported to have instructed his then-chief of staff, Ari Harow, to secretly record them.
Netanyahu is expected to claim that he instructed Harow, who headed the Prime Minister’s Office from 2014 to early 2015, to record the meetings for fear that Mozes would try to extort him. Netanyahu had initiated the contact with Mozes in an attempt to suppress a story about his son Yair, reports said.
It appears that the recordings were found at Harow’s home by police during a separate investigation into suspicions that he had fabricated the sale of a consulting company he owned. Haaretz reported that Harow is expected to be charged in the coming weeks.
Mozes, often described as a long-time arch-nemesis of the prime minister, is reportedly being investigated under caution by police, along with Netanyahu, over their dealings. The prime minister has been questioned by police twice in the past two weeks over those negotiations, as well as over a separate case involving gifts given to him by businessmen. Mozes reportedly faced police questioning for the first time early last week.
The other investigations
In the second case, police have seized receipts for gifts worth up to NIS 400,000 ($104,000) given to Netanyahu over a number of years by Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, Channel 10 news reported Monday night. The receipts were reportedly seized during a raid on Milchan’s offices in Ramat Gan.
Police have been investigating allegations that a number of businessmen have given lucrative gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, over his years in office. Last week, Channel 2 news reported that Milchan was one of up to four businessmen eyed as suspected benefactors of the Netanyahus. Milchan is alleged to have provided the prime minister with a steady supply of expensive cigars and his wife with champagne for years.
Channel 2 reported over the weekend that Netanyahu had asked US Secretary of State John Kerry three times in 2014 to intervene on behalf of Milchan and arrange a long-term visa for Milchan to live in the United States. The visa was indeed arranged.
In a report Sunday, Channel 10 said that in addition to Milchan, Australian billionaire James Packer was also paying for meals for the Netanyahus at their private residence in Caesarea, as well as cigars and champagne. Packer and Milchan are friends and have mutual business interests.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined a request Tuesday from the Times of Israel to comment on the latest reports over the receipts or on whether the prime minister had initiated the meetings with Mozes.