Adelson Told Police He'd Never Again Meet Netanyahu, Report Says

Billionaire reportedly told investigators he was angered upon reading that Netanyahu sought to undermine the Israeli daily owned by the Adelsons

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson with Netanyahu.
Ilan Assayag

American Jewish gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, told police investigators he will never again agree to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu after “reading in the paper” about the prime minister’s alleged efforts to undermine the free daily, Israel’s Channel 13 News reported Sunday.

Adelson reportedly made the remarks in October 2018 under questioning in connection with the probe into conversations between Netanyahu to Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the competing daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The prime minister allegedly promised Mozes that he would pursue the passage of legislation that would weaken Israel Hayom in exchange for favorable coverage of the prime minister in Yedioth.

The prime minister is facing possible indictment on charges of fraud and breach of trust in the case, subject to a pre-indictment hearing. He denies any wrongdoing and said he never intended to follow through with Mozes.

According to Channel 13, under questioning Adelson asked his interrogator who the woman was who headed Naftali Bennnett’s party with him – a reference at the time to Habayit Hayehudi. When he was told that it was Ayelet Shaked, Adelson reportedly said Netanyahu told him that he should hate Shaked and that she is the one who supported legislation to restrict Israel Hayom’s operations.

Shaked now leads the United Right, an alliance of right-wing parties including Habayit Hayehudi and Hayamin Hehadash, the rival party that she and Bennett founded in December.

Adelson’s purported testimony, as quoted by Channel 13, also appears to indicate the involvement of Netanyahu and his family behind the scenes at Israel Hayom, despite the prime minister’s insistence to the contrary. Adelson reportedly said that Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, demanded that the casino magnate have Miriam Adelson, his wife and the official publisher of Israel Hayom, fire Israel Hayom’s editor.

Sheldon Adelson also said Sara Netanyahu raised the possibility that his wife was having an affair with the editor, Amos Regev, and therefore did not wish to fire him, according to Channel 13. Regev left Israel Hayom in May 2017 over tensions with the Prime Minister’s Office.

Last year the prime minister did not attend the inauguration ceremony for the medical school named after the Adelsons at Ariel University. It has been reported that Netanyahu was not been invited.

In its report on Sunday evening, Channel 13 broadcast a response on the prime minister’s behalf calling the broadcast “another criminal, yellow and gossip-filled leak.” Netanyahu, the statement added, had “led the opposition to the Israel Hayom bill, voted against it and even dissolved the Knesset and put his political future at risk in blocking passage of the bill.”