The editor-in-chief of one of Israel’s most popular newspapers quit Sunday, amid an investigation into suspicions the tabloid’s publisher and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to negotiate a deal for positive coverage in return for political favors.
Ron Yaron did not give a reason for leaving the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, but hinted in a statement to the paper’s workers that it was connected to the so-called Case 2000.
“It’s no secret that in the last year and a half the paper has been going through tough times. Case 2000 landed on me, landed on all of us, out of the clear blue sky,” he wrote. “The full facts have still not become clear, but enough has come out that we all need to do some soul searching.”
Police suspect that Netanyahu and Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes attempted to negotiate a quid-pro-quo deal, by which Yedioth would curb criticism of the prime minister, in exchange for government support of a law that would hamstring the free Israel Hayom daily, the paper’s chief rival.
Mozes and Netanyahu have been grilled by police several times and Yaron also gave a statement to investigators after the case became public in January 2017.
At the time, he also wrote a front page editorial in which he indicated he had no knowledge at the time of the Netanyahu-Mozes deal, and that if the newspaper’s coverage had been ordered to swing behind the prime minister he, and his staff, would have walked out.
“This newspaper would not have survived that earthquake,” Yaron wrote in his editorial, which covered half of the front page of the tabloid. The populist newspaper is known for its strident criticism of Netanyahu
The case is one of two in which the prime minister or his aides are suspected of trying to sway media coverage in exchange for political favors. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.
Yaron, who started at the paper 26 years ago as a desk editor and rose to become editor-in-chief in 2007, wrote in the statement to staff that he was “sad to be leaving,” but was “looking at the glass half-full.”
“After all that we have been through, I am choosing to look at the amazing work that you are all doing here and not the background noise,” he wrote.