Editor-in-chief Insists Yedioth Ahronoth Not Skewed, as Publisher's Talks With Netanyahu Rock Israel

Employees would have left the daily had Arnon Mozes tried to change nature of its coverage, says Ron Yaron says in front-page column in Sunday's Yedioth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes.
Atef Safadi/AP and Moti Kimche

Yedioth Ahronoth editor Ron Yaron commented on Sunday on the affair involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the newspaper's publisher, Arnon Mozes, saying that employees would have left the daily had the latter tried to change the nature of its coverage.

"Last night it became clear to me that I'm not only the editor-in-chief of the most important and influential newspaper in the country, but that I'm also the one holding the Richter scale. I'm the one in responsible for 'the earthquake that will be here.' Or rather, for the one that could have been here, at Yedioth Ahronoth," he said, referring to Mozes' remarks to Netanyahu that a change in the paper's coverage would lead to an "earthquake" for it.

"There's no way that this paper would have survived this earthquake, All of us, as one, would have left looking for another home," Yaron said, adding that Mozes' choice of words in his calling the move an "earthquake" showed that he himself was aware of it.

Last week, it was revealed that Netanyahu and Mozes, long considered bitter enemies, had attempted to negotiate a deal for favorable coverage for the prime minister in return for restricting the market access of Israel Hayom, the daily's rival.

According to new excerpts from Mozes and Netanyahu's secret negotiations, the two went as far as to discuss potential journalists who could be recruited by Yedioth to make its coverage of the prime minister more favorable.

Netanyahu asked that Yedioth Ahronoth reduce its "the level of hostility" towards him, while Mozes promised to make efforts "ensure that you remain prime minister," according to transcripts of recordings cited by Channel 2 on Saturday. The two discussed which journalists the newspaper would assign to favorably cover the prime minister, and called each other "masters" of manipulating the media.

In his front-page column, Yaron turned to readers and said that the paper's editors and writers are first and foremost loyal to them – and only afterwards to those who pay their salary.

"I want to say one thing: Hundreds of people have gone over the paper you're reading so that it will be the best, the most interesting, the most important and the most professional one. I can also promise you on behalf of all of us that we have done and will do our journalistic work in the best possible way and in the cleanest, most decent and honest manner. It's true, we've also made mistakes, but it's my responsibility that the good and free press being done here will also be seen," he said.

"I'm not trying to say that it's 'business as usual,' and also not hiding that there's a deep sense of unease in the air and in all of our hearts. However, we are carrying on working out of a strong conviction that we are producing for you, every day and also today, the 'Mona Lisa,'" he said.