Netanyahu on Reports of Secret Talks With Newspaper Publisher: Media Is Trying to Topple Me

Netanyahu accuses the media of disseminating 'carefully selected excerpts' of talks he held with media mogul Arnon Mozes in order to pressure the attorney general to prosecute the premier.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2017.
Ronen Zvulun, AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday addressed reports about secret talks he held with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, accusing the media of waging a campaign to topple him. 

In the conversations, which were recorded, Netanyahu allegedly pledged to move ahead with 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. Excerpts of the recordings have been published in the media in recent days.

“An orchestrated media campaign, unprecedented in its scope, is being waged these days to topple the Likud government I head,” Netanyahu said in a Facebook post. “This propaganda campaign is meant to exert pressure on the attorney general and other people in the prosecution so that they’ll file charges against me.

“The system is simple: Day after day, night after night, they disseminate carefully selected, filtered transcripts and deliberate lies about both of the issues," he continued, evidently referring to the talks with Mozes and another case currently under investigation, in which he is suspected of receiving gifts and benefits from businessmen

“Obviously, as long as the investigation is in progress, I have no possibility of defending myself. I can’t tell the public the real story behind this, which would make clear that no crime occurred."

In the recorded negotiations, Netanyahu reportedly made explicit promises to advance legislation that would help Mozes' Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper by muzzling the freebie Israel Hayom, owned by American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. "We can legislate it," Netanyahu reportedly told Mozes, saying that "special committee" could be set up for that purpose.

But in his response on Sunday, Netanyahu stressed he opposed the so-called Israel Hayom bill, which sought to restrict the free newspaper's distribution. 

“Everyone knows I vehemently opposed the ‘Israel Hayom bill,’ which others concocted the plotted long before the 2013 election," he said. “For many months, I prevented this bill from being brought for its preliminary reading. When it did come to a vote, I voted against the bill, together with a handful of Knesset members that included most of my colleagues in Likud.

“It’s also known that after the bill passed by a large majority, I dismantled my government and called elections for the Knesset, inter alia because of the subversive efforts within the government to pass the law.

“Everyone also knows that when the new government was formed after the election, I put an explicit clause in the coalition agreements to prevent a recurrence of this legislation."

He concluded by suggesting that the media reports are false because evidently nothing came out of the negotiations with Mozes.

“Due to all this, nothing happened. Israel Hayom continues as it was, prospering and flourishing. And the bad press I received from Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet hasn’t stopped for a moment," he said. “Therefore, all these claims that I worked to advance the Israel Hayom bill are false. And the same is true of the other issue, as will become clear in time.”