A leading Israeli outlet aired explosive recordings Monday evening of Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, during a night of excess in a series of Tel Aviv strip clubs.
In the recordings [Hebrew], broadcast by Hadashot TV news, Yair Netanyahu and his friends can be heard discussing the thousands of shekels they had paid for private dances that evening. In comments evidently made in jest while he was likely inebriated, Netanyahu Junior also appeared to offer his friends sexual favors from a woman he was in an intimate relationship with in exchange for money.
Finally, waiting outside of a strip club, he asked the son of a billionaire businessman to “spot him” money in return for a controversial gas deal pushed for by the prime minister that benefited his friend’s tycoon father.
Apparently recognizing the explosive nature of their comments, even if made in jest, at one point the group can be heard telling the state-funded security guard escorting them that he could be “murdered” if he told anyone.
The recording, apparently made two and a half years ago, captured conversations between then-25-year-old Yair Netanyahu; Nir Maimon, the son of gas magnate Koby Maimon; and Roman Abramov, a friend of the younger Netanyahu, who has been in the news recently in connection with police investigations into Prime Minister Netanyahu’s relationship with Australian gambling tycoon James Packer.
Hadashot news reported in November that police are looking into why Abramov was given a job by Packer, despite lacking relevant business experience.
In one of the investigations against the prime minister, known as Case 1000, police are probing expensive gifts given to the Netanyahu family by Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, and actions they suspect he took on their behalf. The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing in the case.
In the recording, Yair Netanyahu and Nir Maimon can be heard joking about the prime minister’s ties to the elder Maimon and his immense profit from a multi-billion-dollar gas deal between private companies and the state.
“Bro, you have to spot me. My dad made an awesome deal for your dad, bro. He fought, fought in the Knesset for this, bro,” Yair Netanyahu says.
“You owe us, you owe us NIS 25,000 ($7,255),” Abramov interjects.
Yair Netanyahu continues: “Bro, my dad now arranged a $20 billion show for you and you can’t spot me NIS 400 ($116)?”
In December 2015, Netanyahu successfully overcame a year-long delay in approving the controversial deal, which he had fought for tooth and nail, in the Knesset and cabinet.
Critics of the deal argued that it created a de facto duopoly in the gas market that would lead to higher prices for Israeli consumers, while its proponents said the protections given to the gas companies were necessary in order to entice them to invest the billions of dollars needed to develop the fields.
Israel has been trying to extract offshore gas since the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan fields in 2009 and 2010. Production has begun in Tamar, but the far-larger Leviathan has been hit by a series of delays. The size of the Leviathan field is estimated at 18.9 trillion cubic feet (535 billion cubic meters, or bcm) of natural gas, along with 34.1 million barrels of condensate. Noble and Delek also control the Tamar field, which holds 7.1 trillion cubic feet, and lies 80 kilometers (40 nautical miles) west of the Israeli port of Haifa.
Maimon is said to control a nearly 29 percent stake in the Tamar gas field through his stake in the Isramco Negev 2 partnership, a junior partner to Tamar and Delek.
In other sections of the recording, Yair Netanyahu, Nir Maimon, and Abramov can repeatedly be heard discussing women they have met throughout the evening, including strippers and prostitutes. “I’ll text her and she will come as takeout,” Yair Netanyahu jokes to Maimon about one waitress.
“You know how many strippers’ numbers I have in my phone?” Abramov adds. “Half my phone is strippers.”
At one point, Abramov tells Netanyahu and Maimon that they are “acting like idiots,” standing outside a strip club. “If you were photographed, do you know how that would look?” he says, naming the well-known Pussycat strip club as one of the jaunts they had visited.
Later, Maimon says that he “blew” NIS 3,000 ($870) on strippers that night. Abramov says he spent around NIS 2,000 ($580) on “two or three” private dances.
Yair Netanyahu also discusses a woman that Hadashot news reported he had been in a relationship with. “If you want, I can set you up with some ****,” he says of her, in comments that the channel said it censored due to their offensive nature. He adds that he could charge money for pimping her out.
Hadashot news said that the conversations took place in an armored car provided by the Prime Minister’s Office and driven by a similarly state-funded driver. A Shin Bet security guard was also with the group throughout the night.
Netanyahu and Ambramov can be heard joking that there would be “serious ramifications” if the guard were ever to lose his job,
“If he got fired,” Abramov says, “we would have to murder him.”
“Be careful when you resign,” they tell him. “You could die.”
At the end of the evening, Yair Netanyahu and Abramov were dropped off at Packer’s house, the report said.
Last week, Yoram Cohen, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security service, revealed that he had recommended against providing publicly funded permanent guards for the prime minister’s two sons, but that his recommendation was overruled.
In the past, the Prime Minister’s Office has said that security decisions regarding the Netanyahu sons were taken by the security wing within the PMO, with input from the Shin Bet, and that the family itself was not involved.
Responding to the interview, the PMO disputed Cohen’s recollections, saying that he had advised security for Yair and and his brother, Avner Netanyahu, both of whom are in their 20s. They are the first children of any Israeli prime minister to have personal bodyguards, which also entitles them to a car and driver and to security when they are abroad.
The recordings were released by Hadashot news, despite pressure from the Prime Minsiter’s Office to block their broadcast. Netanyahu’s attorney Yossi Cohen sent a letter to Hadashot asking that the recording not be aired, the channel said.
In a statement to the TV channel, the Netanyahu family said the recordings were part of a “witch hunt” meant to undermine the prime minister.
“Your witch hunt has reached a new and unprecedented low with the broadcast of a secret tape of things that were said jokingly two and a half years ago, between young people drinking alcohol,” the statement said.
It added that the prime minister was not aware of his son’s friendship with Nir Maimon, and asserted that Netanyahu Senior did not know Maimon’s billionaire father.
In a separate statement, the Prime Minister’s Office defended the assignment of security details to Netanyahu’s family members, saying the family was not involved in the decision-making process.
In a rare move, Yair Netanyahu also released his own statement responding to the report, calling it “biased and shameful,” and claiming the recordings were illegally obtained.
“In that late night conversation, under the influence of alcohol, I said foolish things about women and other foolish things that would have been better left unsaid,” he said. “These words do not represent who I am, the values I was raised on, or the principles I believe in. I regret saying them and apologize if anyone was offended by them.”
Yair Netanyahu, like the prime minister, specifically denied the implication that the gas deal had been negotiated with the intention to benefit Koby Maimon.
“The things I said about Nir Maimon were nothing but a bad joke aimed at mocking him, and any sane person understands that,” he stressed. “I have never taken interest in the gas deal, nor have any understanding of its details.”
But, responding to the recordings, Zionist Union chair Avi Gabbay said that Yair Netanyahu’s friendship with Nir Maimon may suggest a deeper connection between the prime minister and Koby Maimon that could have effected the negotiations over the gas deal.
“When I fought from within the government against the corrupt gas deal, I said that it was clear to me that there was something bigger that was being kept from us,” Gabbay, who resigned as a cabinet minister in 2016, said.
“I can tell you that the exuberance with which [Benjamin] Netanyahu handed out bonuses of millions of dollars on our account to the owners of Tamar seemed very odd to me,” Gabbay added sarcastically. “I never understood what pushed him to act against the interest of the public and in favor of Teshuva, Nobel and Maimon.”
Other opposition members said the recordings highlighted a life of excess lived by both Yair and Benjamin Netanyahu.
“What rot. The ‘friends,’ the hedonism, the smugness, the sense of owning public money, the disrespect and attempt for women and the ‘fun’ of purchasing sex. Eww,” Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg tweeted immediately after the broadcast.
“No, Netanyahu. Every parent I know would be ashamed and ask himself what is his responsibility for educating his children to such a moral low,” Zionist Union MK Stav Shapir tweeted, referring to the Netanyahus’ response to the report, maintaining that Yair’s remarks in the recording were “empty words.”
Referring to allegations that the elder Netanyahu accepted illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors in exchange for advancing their interests, former prime minister Ehud Barak tweeted that Yair Netanyahu was a “narcissist who grew up in a foul swamp of corruption with favors from billionaires and dark deals at the expense of the public.”
Recent months have seen a slew of headlines over Yair Netanyahu’s personal life, his connection to a pair of corruption investigations against the prime minister, and a series of controversial social media posts that have landed him in hot water.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.