Following Haaretz Investigative Report

Attorney General to Probe Netanyahu’s Links to News Site Walla

Sources have told Haaretz the site portrays the prime minister positively in return for rulings favorable to an owner, Shaul Elovitch.

Daniel Bar-On

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has said he will examine complaints about the Walla news site’s reporting on Benjamin Netanyahu and business favors the prime minister allegedly awarded an owner of the site, Shaul Elovitch.

Knesset members have also asked State Comptroller Joseph Shapira to look into the matter.

Sources familiar with operations at Walla, Israel's most popular website, have told Haaretz that articles critical of Netanyahu are buried in the site if published at all, while headlines are softened and positive items about his wife Sara are promoted and accompanied by flattering photos.

In return, the Communications Ministry, where Netanyahu aerves as the communications minister, has allegedly made decisions in Bezeq’s favor, such as approving the company’s purchase of shares in satellite television provider Yes from Eurocom, controlled by Elovitch, for 680 million shekels ($175 million).

Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua has said his company is “completely outside the regulatory battles of the Bezeq group.”

Netanyahu will soon decide on an even more important issue for Elovitch, who is also a key Bezeq shareholder: the implementation of reforms of the landline telephony market, Bezeq’s main source of income.

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) has asked Weinstein and Shapira to tell Netanyahu to steer clear of matters concerning Bezeq. MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) has asked the Prime Minister’s Office for the minutes of meetings between Netanyahu and Elovitch.

In June, Weinstein said there was no reason Netanyahu could not be communications minister, even though his personal lawyers, Isaac Molho and David Shimron, also represent media companies.

At the time the Justice Ministry said questions about conflict of interest were passed on to Shapira, whose findings were passed on to Weinstein, who then gave his opinion to Netanyahu, sources have told Haaretz. The newspaper has asked that this opinion be released.

“The opinion, which concerns ... a fear of conflict of interest with the prime minister serving as communications minister in light of his relationship with attorneys Shimron and Molho, has been completed and given to the prime minister,” the Justice Ministry said. “The request to publish the opinion is being examined and a decision on the matter will be made as soon as possible.”

The ministry said it did not know of claims of “an alleged connection between the prime minister and Shaul Elovitch .... A number of requests on this matter have been received and they will examined, as is customary.”