Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Wednesday that he was weighing pressing charges against the media corporations implicated in two of the three corruption probes involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While Mandelblit in November announced indictments against the publisher of the popular Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Arnon Mozes, and the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecom giant, Shaul Elovitch, alongside the premier, their firms were not charged.
Responding to a letter from the right-wing Lavi legal organization, Mandelblit said that “the possibility of prosecuting these corporations [Yedioth Ahronoth, Bezeq and the Bezeq-owned Walla news site] in the cases in question is still being considered by the relevant parties, and no decision has yet been made on the matter.”
In Case 2000, involving accusations that Netanyahu agreed with Mozes to weaken the circulation of a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from his paper, Mandelblit said he would seek to charge the premier with fraud and breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery.
The indictment said that Netanyahu and Mozes “recognized that the one had the ability to promote the other’s interest” in the run-up to the 2015 elections and discussed such possibilities. In a recording published in the press last month, Netanyahu could be heard apparently negotiating with Mozes for more favorable coverage while later threatening to retaliate “with all the tools at my disposal” against news items he deemed too personal and negative.
Following the announcement of the indictment, Mozes’s attorneys stated that his conversations with Netanyahu had focused on how to provide “more balanced coverage” and were part of “a complex discourse.” Presenting his words as an offer of a bribe was a “wrong interpretation” which “ignores the context of the conversation itself.”
They insisted that Mozes had not offered the prime minister any benefits.
In Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site. In that case Mandelblit announced he intends to charge Netanyahu and Elovitch, along with the latter’s wife Iris, with bribery.
The indictment says the relationship between Netanyahu and Elovitch was “based on give and take,” and the prime minister’s actions benefiting Elovitch netted the businessman benefits to the tune of some NIS 1.8 billion ($500 million) in the period 2012-2017. In exchange, Elovitch’s Walla news site “published your political messages that you wished to convey to the public.”