Netanyahu suspected of trying to help media tycoon sell news site – report

Police said to grill PM on suspicion he tried to shop Shaul Elovitch’s Walla news site to Oracle chief Larry Ellison

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, July 18, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, July 18, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As police investigate suspicions of wrongdoing in the relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, the owner of the Bezeq telecommunications giant, they are reportedly probing whether the prime minister tried to help Elovitch sell the Walla news site, which he also owns.

The new details relate to the so-called Bezeq affair, also known as Case 4000, which involves suspicions that Netanyahu made regulatory decisions favoring Elovitch, and in exchange received favorable coverage from Walla.

According to a Channel 10 news report Tuesday, investigators are checking if Netanyahu was involved in a prospective deal for Elovitch to sell Walla, which was ailing at the time, to US billionaire Oracle chief Larry Ellison.

Netanyahu was quizzed about the suspicions in his latest round of interrogation in the case earlier this month, the report said.

Elovitch was interrogated by police on the same day and reportedly admitted that he personally intervened to alter content on the Walla news site at the request of the Netanyahu family, while denying he expected any favors in return.

Shaul Elovitch at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Ellison’s name has also come up in another graft investigation into Netanyahu, Case 2000, regarding the alleged possible sale of daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth to the tycoon.

Elovitch called the TV report “nonsense,” saying in a statement to Channel 10 that it was “regrettable to see how an investigation in a democratic country has become a village square investigation that is reminiscent of third world countries, with no justice and no judge.”

Oracle founder Larry Ellison, May 11, 2016. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Representatives for Netanyahu, who was also serving as communications minister at the time, responded in a statement that the prime minister’s involvement in media deals is part of his mandate and policy.

“For 20 years the prime minister has been trying to bring investors to diversify the media map in Israel and break the monopoly of leftist views,” the statement said. “That is exactly the mandate that he was given by the voter time after time.”

Aside from Case 4000, Netanyahu is currently facing two other corruption investigations.

In Case 1000, Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Police have recommended that Netanyahu be charged with receiving bribes in both cases. The prime minister denies wrongdoing in all the investigations against him.

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