Naftali Bennett, the leader of Habayit Hayehudi party, sniped back at Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday following a Haaretz report that the prime minister had commissioned negative press about him and his party.
- Israeli media mogul on tape offered to weaken Bennett's party for Netanyahu
- New bribery suspicions could prove game changer in Netanyahu's media case
- A guide for the perplexed: The many affairs involving Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu
"It is very unpleasant that the prime minister contacted a publisher to run a series of articles against Habayit Hayehudi," said that party's leader Naftali Bennett on Monday, following the Haaretz story.
While negotiating a truce of sorts with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under which Netanyahu would help the Yedioth Ahronoth group regain circulation through legislative moves and Yedioth would ease up on slamming the premier in the press, Yedioth publisher Arnon "delivered" an article that made Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi look bad, Haaretz reporter Gidi Weitz reported on Friday.
The contacts between Netanyahu and Mozes are currently under official investigation.
Until then, Bennett had seemed to receive favorable coverage in the Yedioth Ahronoth group.
"I have to say that I didn't understand where these articles, which were complete fabrications, came from. Now I get it," Bennett told Army Radio on Monday morning. "I get the logic. But it isn't right. The prime minister shouldn't be ordering articles from newspaper publishers. It's the last thing that would have occurred to me. I was pretty surprised."
The Mozes-Netanyahu meetings are at the center of the so-called “Case 2000” police inquiry into their alleged collusion to weaken distribution of the pro-Netanyahu free newspaper Israel Hayom. In return, Yedioth would slant its political coverage in favor of Netanyahu to help him retain power. In one conversation, Netanyahu told Mozes he wanted to keep Habayit Hayehudi as small as possible after the next election, and claimed that Mozes was protecting Bennett and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon with favorable coverage.
Mozes apparently got the implied message and, in a subsequent meeting, told Netanyahu the Bennett issue had been taken care of – namely, that the Habayit Hayehudi leader had lost the defensive wall Netanyahu thought Mozes was giving him.
Apparently the reference is to a story that Yedioth ran on December 7, 2014, titled "Economy minister [Bennett] undertook [in 2012] to build 700 day-care centers for toddlers, and only 39 were built".
This last Friday, Avital Lahav, the reporter responsible for the day-care story, stated that the editors of the website had held up the article and phrased the headline in a manner that deliberately hurt Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi. "I know there was something fishy in the handling of this article, because it was published a week and a half or two weeks after I submitted it, and published as a top article," he told Channel 2 news. "Somebody wanted to use the article as a weapon. I knew in real time that it was being done to attack [Bennett], but I did not know why, and did not ask."