Is Netanyahu the De Facto Editor of Adelson's Newspaper? Court Rules PM Must Divulge Phone Records With Adelson

Judges accepted journalist's appeal of freedom of information request, saying public's right to know trumps Netanyahu's and Adelson's right to privacy

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporter Sheldon Adelson in Israel, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporter Sheldon Adelson in Israel, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Israel's top court ruled Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must divulge information on his phone conversations with Sheldon Adelson and the editors of the Israel Hayom (Israel Today) daily, published by Adelson and considered supportive of Netanyahu.

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The Supreme Court accepted the appeal submitted by investigative reporter Raviv Drucker, deciding that Netanyahu must release call logs detailing the times of his discussions with top Israel Hayom representatives, including Adelson and the former editor-in-chief Amos Regev. This decision overturned last year's district court ruling regarding Druker's freedom of information request.

"It is in the public's interest to expose this important information," wrote Judge Menachem Mazuz in the decision, responding to Adelson and Regev who insisted that releasing the call logs would violate their privacy. Mazuz continued, "The public's interest, in this situation, supersedes Adelson, Regev, and the prime minister's right to privacy."

Meanwhile, the State Attorney's Office supported the position of the Prime Minister's Office that Regev and Adelson's call logs need not be released, stating that "the two involved parties are personal friends of the prime minister, and their conversations are private and unrelated to his ministerial work."

Drucker originally submitted a freedom of information request regarding the call logs in February of 2015, which was rejected in September of that year. In appealing the decision, Drucker's told the court that "the relationship between the prime minister, Adelson, and Regev is not a matter of gossip, it's a matter of understanding the relationship between the government, the newspaper, and its funder."

Drucker further insisted that call log could reveal if a correlation exists between the dates of their communications and a variety of items published in the newspaper, and on whether or not the prime minister was the de facto chief editor of Israel Hayom.

Last week, Adelson told Israel Police investigators that Netanyahu asked him to consider canceling the possibility of publishing weekend supplements, Channel 2 reported on Saturday. This information was reportedly shared with investigators during Adelson's second questioning, about a month ago, and referred to a discussion that took place when the paper had no weekend supplements.

The so-called "Case 2000" involves suspicions that Netanyahu promised to rein in the Israel Hayom, which is heavily pro-Netanyahu, in exchange for getting more favorable coverage in Noni Mozes's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

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