According to media reports, State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit is close to recommending that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu be indicted on corruption charges in Case 4000, also known as Bezeq-Walla case, in which Netanyahu allegedly arranged for financial relief for Israeli billionaire Shaul Elovich in return for positive coverage on the Walla news site, which he owned.
So far, there has been little public discussion of what that positive coverage entailed – but on Monday night, Hadashot News reporter Guy Peleg presented what he claimed was an example of the quid pro quo – with Elovich personally directing the editor of the Walla site, Ilan Yeshua, to write and promote news stories aimed at defaming Naftali Bennett. The activity took place in the days before the 2013 elections, when it appeared that Bennett, head of Jewish Home, would achieve as many as 18 seats in the Knesset – mostly at the expense of the Likud.
The objective was to mar Bennett’s reputation in the eyes of the electorate, with Peleg claiming that the Netanyahus directed their advisor Zeev Rubinstein to arrange the matter with Elovich. The report featured purported email and message exchanges between Elovich and Yeshua, in which the former urges the latter to run the defamatory stories, while the editor seems reluctant to do so. It should be noted that there were no “smoking gun” messages shown between Netanyahu and Elovich on the matter.
The articles were aimed at showing Bennett as being hypocritical, both from a defense and religious point of view. One of the articles stressed a personal relationship between Bennett and far-left activist Eldad Yaniv; another discussed how Bennett’s wife worked at one time in a coffee shop that did not have kashrus supervision; and a third alleged that Bennett’s father, James, has been a major right-wing activist who incited for the death of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin before he was killed in 2005. The latter story was pulled at the last minute, Peleg claimed.
In response, the Likud said that Netanyahu “was not aware” of the articles, and that Peleg and Hadashot News “have come up with another example of fake news as part of their daily diet of anti-Netanyahu propaganda. They just neglected to point out that in 2013, when those articles were allegedly part of the quid-pro-quo, Netanyahu was not Communications Minister, so there was nothing he could do for Elovich in his financial troubles with Bezeq.
The company’s merger with YES, which Netanyahu is alleged to have facilitated, was not even on the agenda yet, so there were no favors Netanyahu could have done in return for this alleged assistance.
Walla News was and is a far-left media outlet, and for years has written against Netanyahu and his family members. It is ridiculous that Netanyahu, the most maligned man in Israeli media history, would be accused of bribery not with money, but with ‘positive media coverage.’”
Bennett said in response to the story that “everything I have I received from my father, z”l, who was a good and idealistic man, and from my mother. Both of them left a life of comfort in the United States and came to Israel out of Zionist ideals. Any attempt to harm the reputation of my father is unacceptable, and must stop immediately.”