Netanyahu Promised to Media Mogul to Stifle Adelson's Daily: 'We Can Legislate It, We'll Set Up a Committee'

Prime minister and media mogul Arnon Mozes discussed mechanics of enacting bill stifling pro-Netanyahu freebie, in return for favorable coverage on Mozes' daily, Channel 2 reports. Netanyahu also tried to help Mozes sell his newspaper to foreign businessmen.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon (Noni) Mozes. Atef Safadi/AP and Moti Kimche

New excerpts from recordings of the secret discussions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, reported by Channel 2 on Friday, illustrate how the two men got down to the nuts and bolts of how they would implement a deal for better coverage for Netanyahu and reduced commercial competition for Mozes. In details published later, Mozes told Netanyahu: We'll make sure you remain Prime Minister.

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In their discussions, Netanyahu reportedly made explicit promises to advance legislation that would help Yedioth Ahronoth by muzzling the freebie Israel Hayom, owned by American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. "What's the bottom line?" Mozes asked Netanyahu. "How can we do it quickly?"

"We can legislate it," Netanyahu replied, adding that a "special committee" could be set up for that purpose. 

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The two discussed the "volume issue," apparently meaning how to limit the distribution of Israel Hayom, or perhaps the ads featured in its pages. Netanayhu and Mozes named two lawmakers who could lead the legislative efforts: MKs Yariv Levin and Eitan Cabel. The latter was the sponsor of the so-called Israel Hayom bill, which banned free handouts of daily newspapers. The bill went into abeyance when the 2015 election was called.

But Netanyahu seemed to be concerned about the reaction of Adelson, who Netanyahu referred to by the nickname "gingie" (red-haired, in Hebrew.) Any solution agreed on by Netanyahu and Mozes was bound to have a negative impact on Israel Hayom.

"I want to speak with the gingie," Netanyahu said. "He'll be here in two weeks. We'll have to see if we can do something that he'll be OK with. Pass another law, maybe."

"I want to make things easier," Mozes responded. "The volume thing we spoke about. It should be a compromise with him."

"But I don’t think it will be OK with him," Netanyahu said.

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According to Channel 2, Netanyahu also tried to assist Mozes in selling Yedioth Ahronot. He acted as the intermediary between Mozes and a group of international businessmen, possibly from Germany, with the objective of either selling Mozes' media empire or finding new partners for it.

But Mozes wasn't happy with that solution. In his discussions with Netanyahu he stressed that he wanted a solution that could be achieved quicker than the sale of the entire business.

Also on Friday, Channel 10 cited senior police officials as saying that they will likely recommend charging Netanyahu in both cases, the first of which touches on his negotiations with Mozes and the second of which focuses on suspicions that he received gifts and benefits from businessman. According to Channel 2, these benefits were worth 600,000 shekels ($150,000).

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry and the prosecution believe that an indictment is more likely to emerge from the second case, while the first case is less certain, Channel 10 said.

Netanyahu has repeatedly maintained that the allegations against him are unfounded.