How Close Are Netanyahu and Telecom Magnate Shaul Elovitch? They Won't Say

The Prime Minister’s Office says Netanyahu's meetings with the Bezeq owner were private and therefore no one else's business.

Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 13, 2016.
Ronen Zvulin, Reuters

How close is the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch?

The deputy to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit recently ordered Netanyahu to recuse himself from any issue involving Elovitch because of their friendship, as witnessed by “joint meals with their spouses,” as Mendelblit wrote. But now the two refuse to reveal details about a number of their meetings.

Attorney Shachar Ben-Meir, who recently forced the revelation of expenses at the prime minister’s residences, petitioned in February to reveal the two’s ties, following a Haaretz report on the positive coverage Elovitch’s Walla site provides the Netanyahu family. His freedom-of-information request was about dates and lengths of meetings between the two, where they met and other attendees.

Dudu Bachar

The appeal followed the refusal of the PMO’s freedom of information director to provide Ben-Meir the details, asserting they were private meetings that required Elovitch’s permission before he could diverge details about them. Ben-Meir countered in his petition that their close connection is a matter “on the public agenda,” as “every time Mr. Elovitch meets with the prime minister as prime minister, every meeting is a work meeting.”

The Jerusalem district prosecutor commented in a preliminary response, “After changing the director for implementing the freedom of information law in the PMO, a decision was made in the PMO not to hand over information regarding the meetings with Elovitch because they are private meetings.”

The prosecutor added that Elovitch was asked and objected to handing over the information.

TheMarker made a similar request last September, regarding not only Netanyahu’s meetings as communications minister with Elovitch but with all regulated communications companies, their board members and shareholders. The PMO’s freedom of information director used all deadline extensions legally available to him, but did not respond after the last deadline passed.

The PMO’s spokesman last month stated: “The freedom of information director in the office is collecting the information. When he will finish, he will hand over what is requested.”

“Netanyahu is showing contempt toward every norm of proper public administration and refuses to obey the principle of transparency,” said Meretz chairperson Zehava Galon, noting that in his tenure as communications minister Netanyahu was in close contact with Elovitch, constituting a severe conflict of interests because Bezeq has such a large market share in the Israeli communications market and most issues in the ministry directly affect Elovitch.

“Despite the attorney general recognizing Netanyahu’s serious conflict of interests and forbidding him from dealing with matters related to Elovitch, Netanyahu continues to hide the content of their meetings,” said Galon.