Telecom Tycoon Admits He Acted to Slant Coverage in Favor of Netanyahu: 'I Didn't Want to Annoy the PM'

Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch claims however that he received nothing in exchange

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

The controlling shareholder of the Bezeq Telecommunications, Shaul Elovitch, told police during his interrogation on Tuesday that he acted to slant coverage in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Walla News website. However, he denied that he received anything in exchange for doing so.

“I could not ignore the requests of Sara [Netanyahu] and the rest of the family. I did not want to annoy the prime minister. He’s my regulator,” Elovitch told the investigators, according to transcripts of the questioning reported on Channel 10 News. 

Elovitch said he spoke to the CEO of Walla News, Ilan Yeshua, to change reports on the site. “What did you expect? That I’d ignore these requests? But I never expected anything in return. I didn’t speak with Netanyahu about regulatory benefits or about any bribery deal,” Elovitch said.

Netanyahu served as communication minister, as well as prime minister, between 2014 and 2017.

Netanyahu was questioned on Tuesday as well, for four house, at his home, while Elovitch and his wife Iris were questioned in the offices of the anti-corruption unit Lahav 443. Netanyahu associate attorneys David Shimron and Isaac Molho also gave evidence today in the affair.

Former Bezeq telecom's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, February 2018
Ofer Vaknin

A statement released in Netanyahu’s name said: “The prime minister was shown nothing new today. Prime Minister Netanyahu never made a deal with Elovitch in return for favorable coverage. On the contrary, over the years Prime Minister Netanyahu has been covered consistently in a hostile manner on the website Walla.

"This hostile coverage reached its height in the flood of toxic reports on the eve of the 2015 elections, in an attempt to persuade the public to vote against him. This was precisely the time that he is being falsely accused of the supposed Bezeq-Yes deal,” the statement said, referring to the charge that he helped Bezeq purchase the satellite TV provider Yes.

The statement called the accusation of such a deal “baseless,” and said the prime minister signed the merger after a series of decisions by professional committees including the Anti-Trust Authority and the Council for Cable and Satellite Television and following a clear directive from the Communications Ministry’s legal adviser.

"The prime minister was not presented with even one instance in which as communications minister he did not sign off on the recommendations of professionals, and he did so in this case as well. He gave no special service to Elovitch, the statement concluded.”