PM reportedly involved in leak of Gantz aide’s tape, despite denying knowledge

In recording obtained by TV network, rabbi who recorded Israel Bachar and second man repeatedly address ‘Mr. Prime Minister,’ as they appear to discuss publicizing the comments

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits at Ministry of Health Call Center in Kiryat Malachi on March 1, 2020. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits at Ministry of Health Call Center in Kiryat Malachi on March 1, 2020. (Flash90)

Channel 12 news on Sunday aired a recording it said showed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in discussions over the leaking of a tape in which an adviser to Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz was heard calling the centrist leader a potential “danger” to the people of Israel.

Netanyahu and his Likud party had previously denied involvement.

In a recording (Hebrew) obtained by the network, the rabbi, Guy Havura, who taped adviser Israel Bachar without his knowledge, is heard addressing someone several times as “Mr. Prime Minister,” as does another speaker, as they appear to discuss releasing the tape to the media, without hiding Bachar’s identity.

Havura is heard saying “Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Prime Minister,” as he discusses media reporting on Gantz.

Then a second unidentified speaker says: “Of course, we’re not talking about concealing, not talking about concealing Israel [Bachar]. Of course Israel needs to be heard in his own voice. Okay, that’s clear.”

A voice the network said was Netanyahu’s is heard briefly saying something unintelligible.

The second speaker later says: “Mr. prime minister, we’ll do it.”

Rabbi Guy Havura (YouTube screenshot)

Channel 12 said the recording was made during a meeting in Havura’s office in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening, which included Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s spokesman responded: “I’m unaware of such a conversation,” but refused to say whether he was denying it had taken place.

The prime minister’s alleged involvement was swiftly condemned by Blue and White.

“Netanyahu — you lied to all Israelis by saying you had no part in the rabbi’s recordings. You are a man without restraints and without red lines who uses mob methods. You can not remain prime minister for one more minute. You have brought Israel to an unbelievable low-point,” Gantz’s party said.

In the recording of Bachar, which was also aired first by Channel 12 Thursday, the aide was heard conferring with Havura as a confidant, mostly on his personal affairs. The full tape was said to last some two hours.

At one point, when the conversation turned to Gantz, Havura suggested the party leader could work to stop “some people abroad who might try to attack Iran.”

Israel Bachar. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Bachar answered “I know that.”

“What do you know?” Havura asked.

“That [Gantz] doesn’t have the courage to attack Iran,” Bachar said.

“Because that’s [the character of] the man?”

“Because that’s the man,” Bachar agreed, and said the former army chief’s refusal to permit a strike on Iran was “a danger to the people of Israel.”

Gantz on Friday fired Bachar. But he said his aide had been “caught in a planned ambush that included the use of improper means and fraud — which will be addressed through legal means.”

Bachar responded to his firing, saying that he accepted the decision and that Gantz was capable of coping with all challenges that Israel might face.

“Without going into details, the situation published is part of a campaign of fraud that has achieved a new record of humiliation,” Bachar said. “The time will come for something to be done about it.”

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz gives a statement to the press in Ramat Gan on March 1, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Over the weekend six former heads of Mossad and the Shin Bet said in a video that it was Netanyahu who was a danger to Israel.

On Sunday, Bachar’s attorney told Channel 12: “A rabbi who records a man who trusts him is committing a religious crime and a lowly act between two people.” He said the recording was made through “manipulation of emotion and trust.”

Netanyahu was previously revealed to have met Havura on Wednesday, as the latter led attendants at a synagogue in a prayer for the prime minister to clinch 61 Knesset seats in next week’s election.

But the premier continued to maintain in recent days that he had not spoken with Havura privately and had not been involved in the tape’s release.

Gantz has attacked Netanyahu over the tape, saying he “has corrupted even the relationship of trust between a man and his rabbi. Anything for an edited and cooked recording to hurt me.”

In a separate incendiary recording over the weekend, a top aide to Netanyahu was heard saying that part of Likud’s voter base was driven by hate. In the recording aired by Channel 12 on Saturday, top Likud negotiator Natan Eshel was heard saying that negative campaigning works well with “non-Ashkenazi” voters and that “hate is what unites” the right-wing camp led by the Likud party.

The comments drew condemnation from across the political spectrum and Netanyahu himself rebuked Eshel for them.

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