Israeli Lawmakers Condemn Netanyahu Over Media Mogul Tape Scandal

MKs, former cabinet members call on police to release entire recordings of Netanyahu, 'Israel's first mafia prime minister' and Arnon Mozes in what one termed 'one of the most serious affairs in Israel's history.'

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

Politicians from the centrist Yesh Atid party and the Zionist Union party condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday over the taped recordings between him and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

The chairman of Yesh Atid’s Knesset faction MK Ofer Shelah on Saturday called on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to release the entire taped recordings of negotiations between  Netanyahu and Mozes as soon as the investigation is complete.

As reported in Haaretz in recent weeks, Netanyahu and Mozes held a series of meetings in late 2014. These were recorded either by Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s bureau chief at the time, or possibly by the prime minister himself. In their conversations, Netanyahu pledged to move ahead legislation that would limit the circulation of Yedioth Ahronoth's top competitor, Israel Hayom, while Mozes pledged that he would ensure more favorable coverage of the premier.

“I don’t judge, based on leaks to the press, whether there was criminal wrongdoing here, but in terms of [Netanyahu’s] public service this is something very grave,” Shelah said. “Mendelblit must commit now to informing the public what was said there, since there is a risk that the last shreds of public faith in the government and the media will be lost – faith in these two is an elementary foundation of a democratic society.”

Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) also related to the affair, saying that “if these details are right and the recordings reflect what really happened, this is one of the most serious affairs in Israel’s history.” He added that “as a history teacher, when talking about tyranny and the spirit of fascism, I note that it begins with a takeover of the media. If Netanyahu was peddling the free press it’s tantamount to the beginning of a dictatorship.”

Cohen also spoke about his party leader, Yair Lapid. “Yair will not remain silent and will relate to this affair. We try to present a less hot-headed discourse. Yair Lapid is not afraid of Yedioth Ahronoth or of Mozes. When you work somewhere for 30 years and a bill was proposed, Lapid moved sideways. And it now turns out that this was a good move.”

Former cabinet member Avi Gabbay said that “Netanyahu has finished his historic career as Prime Minister. This affair is the worst in Israel’s history. When I saw him having drinks with Arnaud Mimran, a French criminal who has been funding Netanyahu, I was embarrassed.”

Gabbay also referred to the gifts Netanyahu received from tycoons and to the submarines affair, in which Netanyahu allegedly intervened in cancelling a tender and employing a middleman connected to his personal lawyer for procuring the German submarines. These issues may involve criminal wrongdoing, he said, emphasizing that he was not a lawyer.  In contrast to these affairs which still need to be clarified, the taped conversations with Mozes aren’t denied. “You see how they negotiate over shaping our reality if that’s not criminal, if that’s not bribery I don’t know what is. For this Netanyahu must vacate his seat – this is too much.”

MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) also related to the Netanyahu-Mozes affair, writing on her Facebook page that “Netanyahu is the first mafia prime minister in Israel. Two people with such large responsibility for Israel’s future are willing to sell it for their personal power. When citizens are deprived of their right to know, they are deprived of their right to democracy. Netanyahu is clinging to his seat out of a passion for power and the perks that come with it, not for using this power for the benefit of the state.”

On Saturday, Channel 2 reported new details into the alleged negotiations held between Netanyahu and Mozes. According to the report, the two spoke about potential journalists the newspaper could hire to shift coverage in Netanyahu's favor. According to the report, Mozes told Netanyahu that "we need to make sure you will be prime minister."