Netanyahu Favored Bill Banning Recordings - After Police Had Tape of Him

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking a phone call.Credit: Emil Salman

Last August, after Israel Police had procured a sensitive tape of a conversation that is now part of an investigation against Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister spoke in favor of a bill that would ban the recording of telephone conversations without the consent of the parties involved.

According to a Channel 2 television report Sunday, Netanyahu is heard on the tape speaking to the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Arnon Mozes, offering to reduce the power in the newspaper market of the freebie daily Israel Hayom, a major competitor of Yedioth, if Mozes would promise more favorable coverage of the prime minister.

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The recording of the conversation was made by Netanayhu’s bureau chief at the time, Ari Harow, at the prime minister’s request, Channel 2 reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with his then-bureau chief, Ari Harow, in 2008.Credit: Daniel Bar-On/Jini

Israel Hayom is owned by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

In August, when the sensitive tape was already in the possession of the police and of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the prime minister spoke in favor of a law requiring the consent in advance of both parties to a conversation before it was recorded. In the meantime, however, no such legislation has been advanced, nor has Netanyahu introduced such a bill himself.

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Currently the law permits the recording of a telephone conversation if only one side is aware of it. Recording of conversations by a third party without the knowledge of either side is considered illegal wiretapping, which calls for punishment of up to five years in prison.

In the United States, by comparison, the law in most states is similar to that in Israel; only 12 states requiring the consent of both sides. The limitations do not apply to law enforcement officials, who can obtain permission to carry out wiretapping in cases of suspected illegal activity.

In August a source close to Netanyahu told Haaretz that the prime minister had not initiated legislation concerning recordings, but had intimated such a law was necessary to protect personal privacy.

“The problem,” the source said, “is first of all the possibility of recording someone without their knowledge. The police, of course, will be exempt from this law.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not, as of the writing of this article, provided a response.

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