Netanyahu Investigation: Israeli Minister, Former Top Editor Questioned

Minister Elkin and former editor of Ynet questioned over alleged negotiations between Netanyahu and media mogul over favorable coverage.

Former Ynet editor-in-chief Eran Tiefenbrunn (L); Israeli minister Zeev Elkin each arrive at police station for questioning over Netanyahu's alleged talks with media mogul. January 19, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Zeev Elkin, a minister in the Israeli government, and Eran Tiefenbrunn, the former chief editor of one of Israel's most popular news sites, were questioned Thursday as part of the ongoing police investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over alleged negotiations he held with media mogul Arnon Mozes for favorable coverage.

Tiefenbrunn was the editor of Ynet, the online version of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily published by Mozes. Elkin, who is minister of Jerusalem Affairs and minister of Environmental Protection, is considered one of the politicians closest to Netanyahu and is key in seeing legislation passed on behalf of the prime minister.

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In their alleged discussions, Netanyahu reportedly made explicit promises to advance legislation that would help Mozes' Yedioth Ahronoth by muzzling the freebie Israel Hayom, owned by American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

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

In was in these recordings that Tiefenbrunn's name first surfaced in regards to the affiar.

Mozes: “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.”