Police Question Tourism Minister Yariv Levin About Netanyahu Tape Scandal

The minister confirmed to Haaretz he was questioned by the national fraud unit. Police are expected to question more senior figures as well.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset, December 8, 2015.
Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset, December 8, 2015. Olivier Fitoussi

Israel Police questioned Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Sunday about the bribery case involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes.

Levin, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, was questioned at the national fraud unit. He confirmed to Haaretz that he was summoned but declined to comment on the contents of his testimony.

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Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the alleged bribery deal discussed between Netanyahu and Mozes. The proposed deal included a sharp change in the coverage of the prime minister by the Yedioth Ahronoth group in exchange for Netanyahu’s promise to promote legislation that would severely damage the free daily, Moses’ competitor, Israel Hayom.

Levin was Knesset Speaker in 2014. He and Ze'ev Elkin, the current Immigration Minister, are confidants of Netanyahu who have handled complicated political maneuvering in order to get legislation passed.

Assessments are that police wanted to find out from Levin whether Netanyahu had spoken to him about the promise he gave Mozes to get legislation passed that would force Israel Hayom to charge for its paper, a step which could have helped to strengthen Yediot Ahronoth's circulation.

The legislation passed a preliminary vote but weeks later Netanyahu fired cabinet ministers Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, the Knesset was dissolved and a decision was made to hold a new election. Passing legislation during an election campaign is a complicated task and has its limitations.

The assessment is that police wanted to know whether Netanyahu asked Levin whether the legislation could win approval despite these constraints.

More political and business figures are also expected to be questioned about the case.