New quotes from recordings that Channel Two claims took place between Binyamin Netanyahu and Yediot Acharonot publisher Arnon (“Noni”) Mozes promised to further complicate the prime minister’s legal position regarding charges of alleged favor-trading on an alleged deal Mozes offered Netanyahu. According to the latest quotes, Mozes asked Netanyahu to intervene directly with Yisrael Hayom owner, American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, in order to persuade him to start charging money for the free newspaper.
Police have been investigating attempts by Mozes to make a deal with Netanyahu in 2009, in which the prime minister would pressure Yisrael Hayom to close down, or back legislation requiring the free newspaper to charge money. In return, Mozes promised to ease the negative coverage against the prime minister.
The latest quotes show that the “plot” may have progressed to stages beyond discussion, as the quotes released previously had indicated. Mozes, according to Channel Two, asked Netanyahu, “What is the bottom line? How can this [changing the price policy of Yisrael Hayom] be done quickly?” In response, Netanyahu tells Mozes that “it may be possible to legislate [the law that Yisrael Hayom would have to charge money for the paper]. I want to speak about this with ‘the redhead’ [a reference to Adelson], he will be in Israel in two weeks.”
Mozes continues and says, “We need to find a way to do this that [Adelson] can live with, maybe combine it with another law. I want to make this as easy as possible, I am not looking to make it difficult.” Netanyahu, the quotes continue, asks, “How?” and Mozes responds by saying, “By coming to a compromise with him. I am saying this in a positive way, not a negative way.” Netanyahu responds by saying that he does not think Adelson will go for this, but that he had “already spoken with someone” about a deal he thinks Adelson would accept. This person would work with Zionist Camp MK Eitan Cabel, who proposed the law that would have forced Yisrael Hayom to charge for its publications.
Cabel was questioned by police on Thursday, and is said to have told police that there were no deals made on the law. Speaking to Channel Two Motzoei Shabbos, he said that when he proposed the law against free newspapers, it was on the basis of his personal principles that in order to survive, a free press needed to be supported by the public, not funded by billionaires. “I didn’t know Mozes when I proposed the law, but later I spoke with him about various issues, as I did with [Ha’aretz publisher Amos] Shocken. This report [that he was involved in the alleged deal] is completely wrong and I am very angry about it. I am not a part of this ugly story and I have nothing to do with Netanyahu.”
Mozes is set to be questioned by police Sunday about his alleged discussions with Netanyahu. The prime minister has stated on several occasions that he had nothing to hide, and that the matter would be dropped, as no criminal activity could be implied. Yediot Acharonot has never endorsed Netanyahu for prime minister; quite the opposite, it has supported every contender for the position who ran against Netanyahu. In addition, Yisrael Hayom has been and remains free.