Netanyahu Investigation: 'PM Contacted Australian Billionaire Packer to Buy Israeli Paper'

According to Channel 2, prime minister set up meetings between Arnon Mozes and Arnon Milchan, James Packer and even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison as part of talks with media mogul.

From upper right, clockwise: Netanyahu; Milchan; Packer; Mozes
From upper right, clockwise: Netanyahu; Milchan; Packer; Mozes. Olivieh Fitoussi, Moti Kimchi, AP, Bloomberg

New details have emerged into alleged negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli media mogul Arnon Mozes, according to which the prime minister helped set up meeting between the Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and leading businessmen, include James Packer, already named as part of investigations into Netanyahu, and others who are suspected of giving him potentially illegal gifts.

According to Channel 2, Netanyahu helped set up meetings between Mozes and the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, the Australian billionaire James Packer and even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. He also helped Mozes reach out to the German media concern Axel Springer. All contacts were made as part of an attempt to help Mozes' Yedioth Aharnoth daily deal with financial issues by bringing in investors. Axel Springer denied that the negotiations ever occured, adding that it never considering purchasing Yedioth.

Haaretz's sister publication TheMarker reported in June that the Oracle founder was interested in buying the Israeli daily, though the reason was unclear at the time.

James Packer, left, sits next to movie producer Arnon Milchan and listens to Benjamin Netanyahu address a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015.
AFP

The latest Channel 2 report was aired shortly after Israeli police questioned Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes yesterday, for the second time.

The eight-hour police interview with Mozes was the latest development in a spiraling investigation of allegations that he and Netanyahu negotiated favorable coverage of the prime minister in exchange for Netanyahu restricting market access to a key rival of Mozes’s newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

Last week, it was revealed that Netanyahu and Mozes, long considered bitter enemies, had attempted to negotiate a deal for favorable coverage for the prime minister in return for restricting the market access of Israel Hayom, the free, pro-Netanyahu Hebrew daily owned by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Excerpts from recordings of the secret discussions between Netanyahu and  Mozes, reported by Channel 2 over the weeked, 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.

According to the excerpts, Mozes and Netanyahu even discussed specific journalists to hire at Yedioth to provide more favorable coverage of the prime minister.

Netanyahu asked that Yedioth Ahronoth reduce its “hostility” toward him, while Mozes promised to help Netanyahu remain in office, according to transcripts of recordings cited by Channel 2 on Saturday.

Last week, Channel 10 reported that a police search of Milchan’s office last week turned up purchase receipts for cigars and other gifts for Netanyahu exceeding 400,000 shekels ($105,000), while receipts for gifts worth tens or hundreds of thousands of shekels were found in Packer’s offices.

The report said Packer routinely gave the Netanyahu family gifts and other favors. Late last year, Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker reported that Yair Netanyahu, a son of the prime minister, lived last summer in an apartment in Tel Aviv’s Royal Beach Hotel owned by Packer.

According to Drucker, Packer’s lawyer, Jacob Weinroth, met with Interior Minister Arye Dery to request that Packer be given permanent residency in Israel. Drucker also reported that Packer transported Yair Netanyahu on his private plane and put him up in expensive hotels.

The latest leaked recording of an alleged conversation between Netanyahu and Mozes went as follows, according to the televised report:

Mozes: “Bibi, elections will be held in another three and a half months. You will have a million things to think about. We conducted this in 2009, perhaps you’ve forgotten. It was intelligently run and we appeared to be in a good place. We’ve already seen this movie. This is our fourth election campaign, not our third, our fourth: ‘96, ;99, 2009 and now.

“Assuming we agree on matters, you must have someone speak to [Yedioth editor Ron Yaron]. You haven’t done this for months.”

Netanyahu: “Could Nir Hefetz [then Netanyahu’s media adviser and a former senior Yedioth editor at Ahronoth] speak to him?”

M.: “No, Nir wants to do two things, he wants to work for you and be Yedioth’s editor. So I don’t want that. Nir is in touch with him regularly but he won’t trust Nir.

“The thing is that at 10:30 P.M. I to my delight go to sleep. There are things on the list, things that are important to you, he has to be in touch with two people, with Ron and with Eran [Tiefenbrunn, the former editor of Yedioth website Ynet].”

N.: Nir can’t speak to Eran? Is it better he doesn’t?”

M.: “There are investors, there’s a past, he was the editor of [Yedioth’s weekly supplement] and wanted to be editor of Yedioth Ahronoth, he’s involved, Ynet is less of a problem, that’s during the way, and it’s easier.

“If there are urgent matters you can speak to me during the day, during the day the contact person should speak with Ron. Look, Bibi, we need to do everything quickly because I need to get this ship moving, I’m telling Ron on Sunday.”

N.: “But turn the ship around.”

M.: “I will tell Ron on Sunday that someone will speak to him. That’s a start. There were a few small things, one or two that he asked for and it happened.”