Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fought back on Tuesday against a series of court rulings in investigations of alleged corruption which seek records of personal conversations that the prime minister’s lawyer called a “fatal violation of the right to privacy.”
PM Netanyahu requested that the High Court hold an additional hearing on an order forcing him to release the dates of his phone calls with Yisrael Hayom newspaper publisher Sheldon Adelson, a noted backer of the prime minister.
In a letter to the court, Netanyahu attorney Yaakov Weinroth said that while the prime minister “has nothing to hide,” compliance with such demands for personal communications will seriously hinder the ability of public officials to carry on their work.
“In the short time that has passed since the ruling was published, we are witnessing a huge wave of petitions to reveal private telephone calls and diaries of private meetings of many public officials and elected representatives, and this is only the beginning,” the letter said.
“It is inconceivable that ministers, Knesset members, judges and other public officials will be subject to the exposure of their private conversations with journalists and in general,” Weinroth wrote.
A statement released by Netanyahu spokesman Nir Hefetz said that he intends to voluntarily release the phone records, “for the simple reason that he has nothing to hide,” but that he first wants to prevent establishment of a precedent requiring such disclosure, which would violate his right to privacy.
Tuesday’s petition on behalf of Netanyahu comes just two days after a court ordered the municipality of Yerushalayim to disclose details concerning its employment of Mrs. Netanyahu, an educational psychologist, which was also requested on freedom of information grounds.
The court decision handed down earlier this month came in response to a petition based on the Freedom of Information Law filed by Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker. It also applied to logs of phone conversations with Amos Regev, the former editor-in-chief of Yisrael Hayom.
“The public interest in releasing this information outweighs the considerations for Netanyahu and Adelson’s right to privacy,” Justice Menachem Mazuz wrote in the ruling.
Adelson reportedly gave testimony to investigators in recent days which would appear to confirm allegations that Netanyahu had been negotiating a deal with Yedioth Ahronot publisher Nuni Mozes for less critical coverage of him in return for a scaled-down Yisrael Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu paper.
Adelson was quoted as saying he was “surprised, disappointed and angered” when he heard about the conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes.