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Former aide: Netanyahu got Sheldon Adelson to start Israel Hayom

Nir Hefetz, a former aide to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, is alleging that his former boss didn’t only wield influence over Israel Hayom, but actively pushed the establishment of the free tabloid in order to blunt Yedioth Ahronoth.

“Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in recruiting Sheldon Adelson to establish a paper that would take down Yedioth Ahronoth,” Hefetz says from the stand. “Netanyahu’s claims that [Yedioth publisher Arnon] Mozes was exploiting him are hypocrisy.”

Hefetz is the state’s key witness in the corruption trial against Netanyahu, which includes charges that he tried to make a deal with Mozes for softer coverage of him in exchange for legislation to curb Israel Hayom’s reach.

A man passes out the free newspaper Israel Hayom to passersby on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, January 4, 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel Hayom, a right-wing newspaper widely considered to be a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, started operating in 2007 under Adelson, a casino magnate who died earlier this year. It quickly overtook Yedioth Ahronoth in circulation, thanks to its aggressive distribution and free price point.

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