In his recent testimony to Israeli police, US billionaire Sheldon Adelson recounted a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the latter spoke of a matter of financial importance which he had discussed with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, Channel 10 news reported Friday.
Adelson testified to investigators in June on the so-called Case 2000 — in which Netanyahu and Mozes are suspected of concocting a deal under which the prime minister would advance legislation to reduce the free, Adelson-owned Israel Hayom daily’s circulation in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
If Netanyahu discussed the Mozes deal with Adelson, it could potentially put a dent in the premier’s reported claims to investigators that he had never intended to follow through on such an agreement.
Adelson has been questioned by police several times in recent months. According to Hebrew media reports, in May Adelson, who is not a suspect, told investigators that Netanyahu never spoke to him about his conversations with Mozes, nor about the so-called “Israel Hayom Bill” proposed by Labor MK Eitan Cabel to make it illegal to distribute a full-sized newspaper for free — a proposal to which the prime minister was so opposed, some reports have claimed, that he called new elections in 2015.
Adelson, who has been a staunch backer of Netanyahu and who donated millions to the Trump campaign, is the driving force behind Israel Hayom, which for years has been firmly pro-Netanyahu, though some observers have noticed a shift in its coverage of late.
Channel 2 News reported in January that Mozes had provided evidence showing that Netanyahu wielded huge influence over Israel Hayom — evidence that suggested the prime minister plays an active role in the Israeli media and contradicted an affidavit he gave stating that he did “not have, and has never had, any ties of control or any other organizational ties, in any form, with Israel Hayom, or with newspaper staff or journalists writing for it, that would influence the paper’s editorial considerations or its contents.”
In addition to Case 2000, Netanyahu is a suspect in a separate corruption investigation known as Case 1000, which revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne said to have been given to the prime minister and his wife, Sara, by Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Netanyahu has denied all of the allegations against him in both cases.