Likud Lawmaker Defends Netanyahu Over Number of Calls to Editor of Adelson-owned Paper

Coalition whip David Bitan also says Netanyahu has promised him ministerial job during this Knesset term

MK David Bitan, right, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Olivier Fitoussi

Governing coalition chairman and Likud MK David Bitan said over the weekend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to make him a minister before the end of the current Knesset.

Speaking on Channel 2 TV’s “Meet the Press,” Bitan said he didn’t want to talk about what portfolio he had been promised. “It’s not according to my personal choice, it depends on what’s available,” he explained.

Bitan also said he would ask the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday to reveal the number of phone calls between former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the editor of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, to show that the number of calls between Netanyahu and Israel Hayom editor Amos Regev was not unusual.

Forced to comply with a freedom of information request by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, Netanyahu posted on Facebook Thursday that he had spoken with Regev over 230 times between 2012 and 2015, and more than 100 times with Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson.

Since Bitan assumed the role of coalition whip from MK Tzachi Hanegbi in May 2016, he and Netanyahu have grown closer. Bitan’s efforts have also earned the grudging respect of the opposition benches.

In recent months he has staged a series of rallies in support of Netanyahu, in the face of several police probes into the premier and weekly demonstrations against Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in Petah Tikva over what protesters see as foot-dragging in the investigations.

Bitan said Netanyahu had lashed out against the media at a recent Likud rally because “it’s a fight for public opinion, and so he had to address it” accordingly. Bitan believes “the media is magnifying” the significance of the investigations. “That’s the job of the left, not of the media,” he said. “They’re trying to create a cloud of corruption. The fact there’s an investigation is creating the cloud of corruption, not the outcome of the investigation,” Bitan complained.

MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) chastised Bitan. “You’re acting like a puppy watchdog,” he told him. “Nobody but you is defending him. This prime minister is corrupt and you’re protecting him,” Margalit added.