Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson reportedly vowed to never meet again with his longtime confidant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after learning of reports regarding the premier’s intention to hobble his Israel Hayom daily in exchange for positive coverage from a competing newspaper.
In leaked transcripts from the August 2018 police interview of Adelson, reported Sunday by Channel 13, the right-wing US billionaire told investigators, “I will never meet [Netanyahu] again because of what I read.”
Adelson was referring to reports regarding Case 2000, which involves suspicions that Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust pending an October hearing in that case.
The reported readouts from Adelson’s interrogation revealed the extent to which both the prime minister and his wife, Sara, were involved in Israel Hayom’s content each day.
The casino magnate told police that Netanyahu had pushed him to “hate” then justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who now leads the United Right party, because she supported a 2014 bill that would have forced the free Israel Hayom to end its free distribution.
Netanyahu apparently had not revealed to Adelson that he too had pushed for limiting Israel Hayom in various ways during his conversations with Mozes.
Adelson also told interrogators, according to the transcripts, that Sara Netanyahu had pushed for him to fire Israel Hayom editor Amos Regev.
“She tossed around very rude comments about how [my wife] Miri might be having an affair with Amos,” Adelson recalled. “It indeed was a very rude comment. I intended to get up and go at that instant — but Miri didn’t want to.”
Amos Regev left the paper in mid-2017, some 2.5 years after those remarks were made.
Since its founding a decade ago, Israel Hayom has consistently supported the prime minister. Its unfailing backing of Netanyahu has been characterized by the playing down of his failures, the hyping of his achievements and the lashing of his critics. It has also shied away from praising his rivals.
Channel 13 went on to cite associates of the Adelsons who claim that their relationship with the Netanyahus was never the same after Sheldon Adelson’s testimony to police.
The billionaire couple were honored at a ceremony last year inaugurating a new medical school at Ariel University. Then-education minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat were invited. The Netanyahus were not.
Responding to the Channel 13 report, a Netanyahu spokesman blasted the network for publishing a leak from an investigation, which is a crime.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu led the opposition to the ‘Israel Hayom’ law, voted against it and even dissolved the Knesset and endangered his political future by preventing the passage of the law,” the spokesman said.
“What additional heaps of crap will be published in order to divert public opinion from the central question of this election: Who will be the prime minister — Netanyahu or [Blue and Whit’s Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz?”