'If I Fall, the Nation Falls': How Netanyahu Pressured Billionaires to Meddle in Media

Gidi Weitz
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Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 2005.
Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 2005. Credit: David Silverman/Getty Image
Gidi Weitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to recruit billionaires for the purpose of acquiring contrarian Israeli media outlets and turning them into friendly ones are evident in all the cases he was indicted in.

The embattled prime minister met billionaire and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison ten times in an attempt to persuade him to buy the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, for example.

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Billionaire James Packer also met Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes to examine the possibility of a purchase, after being briefed overnight at the Prime Minister’s Residence. “I told Netanyahu that Packer is dangerous”, related Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s confidant, who was present at that briefing, “but Netanyahu wanted Packer to buy the paper.” The prime minister told investigators that he wasn’t driven by personal motives, but as an Israeli patriot, “in order to ensure the future of the country.”

This argument was also front and center in Netanyahu’s attempts to get Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan to invest in Israel’s media market. Milchan is at the heart of Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is accused of fraud and breach of trust over gifts he allegedly received from him and Packer.

In his testimony, Milchan gave investigators a vivid description of a situation in which Netanyahu begged different tycoons to buy Yedioth Ahronoth from Mozes: “He attacks me, he makes my wife miserable, and I’m yelled at from morning till night for not doing anything in order to get rid of him. I know someone like you who has billions…I’m dying to get rid of him. Help me. We’re in trouble with the Iranians…soon they’ll start dropping atom bombs on us…I’m sitting here telling you secrets that no one knows, how we attacked the Syrians.

“He’s an ace in making you feel…there are two people who in one-on-one situations are impossible to resist, Clinton and Bibi” added Milchan. “He’ll tell you about a drone that attacked here or there, and you leave feeling extremely impressed. He did this to James Packer…Netanyahu’s assumption is that in order to help the people of Israel, to help us after what happened in the Holocaust, and I’m using his words: 'We’re facing another Holocaust now, so don’t scrimp on money, we’ll get rid of him [Mozes], otherwise I fall, and if I fall the nation falls.'”

“How do I know [about Packer]?” Milchan added. “Because that’s how he talks to me too.”

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