PM’s wife during police questioning: Media ‘stepping on me like a cockroach’

PM’s wife during police questioning: Media ‘stepping on me like a cockroach’

Leaked transcripts detail Sara Netanyahu’s defense of her meddling in Walla news site; ex-MK said to testify billionaire Adelson offered to make him ‘king of the world’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara at a welcoming ceremony for the Brazilian president at Ben Gurion Airport on March 31, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara at a welcoming ceremony for the Brazilian president at Ben Gurion Airport on March 31, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israeli television on Thursday evening published leaked transcripts of the police interrogation of Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, in which she accused the media of only publishing “lies” about her and “trampling me like a cockroach” and police of “selective law enforcement.”

The transcripts aired by Channel 12 are of Benjamin Netanyahu’s questioning in Case 4000, one of three cases in which charges are pending against the prime minister. In that case, the most severe of the three, the premier is alleged to have advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in telecom giant Bezeq, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

Sara Netanyahu had called Walla editors many times to demand changes in its coverage and was questioned on suspicion that she knew of her husband’s alleged bribery deal with Elovitch. That case against her was eventually closed, though earlier this year she was convicted in another criminal case.

The lengthy transcript is dominated by attacks by Netanyahu on Israeli media, arguing that all the suspicions were “lies” and that her frequent phone calls to Iris Elovitch, Shaul’s wife, were innocent attempts to correct falsehoods appearing on the news site. When asked why so many of her requests were approved, she said Iris Elovitch had tended to sympathize with her requests.

“[The media] is a dictatorship, bullying and lies, everything they say about us is a lie. They don’t publish all the things [Benjamin Netanyahu] does for the country. It is hurtful and unfair. I wish one day there will be a balanced media in Israel, I don’t need to live in fear and not say what I’m thinking,” she claimed, presenting herself repeatedly as “weak” and lacking power, and her interrogator as “powerful.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on October 27, 2019. (GALI TIBBON / AFP)

She echoed longstanding claims by the Netanyahus that police and prosecutors are only investigating them because they want to oust the premier from power. “He is a beloved leader around the world, but he’s weak in the media. Everyone slaughters him and me. They are stepping on me like a cockroach,” she said.

Asked if she had spoken with Shaul Elovitch about Walla’s team of journalists, Sara Netanyahu seemed to admit she had urged staff changes: “I may have told her that everyone needs the employees that are a good fit for them. You need to match the employees to the ideology. I remember there was an atmosphere of avoidance and fudging [my requests], Iris told me they would be more fair but that didn’t happen.”

The premier’s office responded to the report with a familiar comment, slamming the many leaks from the investigations against Netanyahu and the fact that they aren’t being investigated, and saying law enforcement bodies are “running amok” in their bid to indict the prime minister.

Netanyahu himself, who denies any wrongdoing in all of the cases against him, published a Facebook post Thursday night defending and praising his wife, writing: “It is difficult for me to see how they are spilling my wife’s blood and trampling her dignity. Every evening they are distorting the character of my wife, Sara.”

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at the third presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, October 19, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/via JTA)

‘Adelson was prepared to give me the world’

Separately, Channel 13 on Thursday aired leaked transcripts from one of the other investigations against the prime minister, Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of agreeing with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily, the staunchly pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Former Labor MK Eitan Cabel was questioned by police in the case on suspicion that his promotion of a bill to close Israel Hayom had been part of a bribery deal in which Yedioth promised him favorable coverage in return. The case against him was eventually closed.

During his interrogation, the transcripts revealed, Cabel alleged that a different quid pro quo deal had been offered to him by Israel Hayom’s owner, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, to nix his bill in exchange for positive coverage.

MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) at the Knesset, June 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Sheldon Adelson was prepared to give me the world. They tried to tempt me. They met me, Sheldon’s people, and proposed that I come and they will write about me and make me the king of the world. They tried very hard, pressured me. [They ran] a crazy campaign against me in the newspaper,” Cabel told interrogators, adding that he rejected the offer and considered it “illegitimate.”

“I tricked them,” he said. “They wrote down my phone number and said they would call my office. I activated automatic call forwarding to the Prime Minister’s Office.”

He said he had met a senior associate of Adelson, Dan Raviv — who joined the billionaire’s empire in 2000 after a long career as a reporter for Israel’s Channel 1 as well as several years with the BBC — who offered to set up a meeting with Adelson himself.

Later, the police interrogators got the impression that Cabel was trying to walk back his previous testimony on the scale of the promises he had been given, after they told him of the gravity of what he had revealed to them. Cabel denied he was walking back his claims, but then said the offer had not been a bribe.

Channel 13 said that for an unknown reason, Raviv, the Adelson associate, wasn’t summoned for questioning. Adelson wasn’t asked about the matter during his own interrogation. The case against Cabel was closed due to lack of evidence.

Cabel did not immediately comment on the report.

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