Ex-communications Minister Complains to Police Over Leaked Audios of Netanyahu's Media Intervention

Recordings released by Channel 13 News reveal that Netanyahu ordered Ayoub Kara to meddle to allow right-wing channel to broadcast news

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Druze lawmaker Ayoub Kara during in April 2013.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

Former Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said he filed a police complaint Tuesday following the release of secret recordings of his conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (For the latest election polls – click here)

The recordings revealed Netanyahu's intervention in media regulations despite a High Court petition ordering him to relinquish the communications portfolio while he was being investigated in two media-related criminal cases (Cases 2000 and 4000).

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Speaking outside the police station, Kara said that "the report aired by Channel 13 yesterday was intended to target myself and the prime minister. I won't let my credibility, path and ideology be hurt."

In the recordings, released Monday evening by Channel 13 News, Netanyahu can be heard telling Kara to intervene in order to allow right-wing Channel 20 to broadcast news, abolish the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, and legalize ownership of Israeli television networks by foreign citizens.

A response from Netanyahu’s bureau said that he acted per the instructions of the attorney general.

The recordings document consultations between Netanyahu, Kara and a senior Likud official in December 2017. In them, Netanyahu is heard discussing restrictions that barred the right-wing Channel 20 network from airing news programs.

“Now how do we save the news until then?” the prime minister can be heard asking, referring to the time it would take to pass a law that would allow the channel to broadcast news. “It will take a few months. What do you suggest to save the news?” He goes on to ask the Likud official. “They won’t let Channel 20 air news.”

During that period, Channel 20 was entrenched in a dispute with the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, which accused the network of violating the terms of its license. In the recording, Netanyau asks: “What about Channel 10’s violations? What about Channel 2’s violations? What about those violations? How can they do such a thing?”

When Netanyahu assembled his fourth government in 2015, he kept the communications portfolio for himself. In that same year, Haaretz published an investigation into the relationship between Netanyahu and the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, Shaul Elovitch. Following the report, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit forbade Netanyahu from handling matters related to Elovitch.

Afterwards, a petition was filed to the High Court of Justice against Netanyahu’s tenure as communications minister, and at the beginning of 2017, he resigned from the post and appointed Tzachi Hanegbi in his stead. About three months later, Netanyahu appointed Ayoub Kara to the position.

A response from Netanyahu’s bureau says that the only restrictions that were placed on the prime minister were regarding Elovitch, with whom he did not have contact, and that he acted in accordance with the attorney general’s instructions.

“Netanyahu is allowed to handle matters that relate to the various government offices and the fact that he does not hold the communications portfolio does not negate his involvement in the realm of communications in his job as prime minister,” the statement says.

Later on in the recording, the prime minister asks Kara, “do you have a way to dissolve the [Cable and Satellite Broadcasting] Council, by the way?”

The communications minister says that he does, and refers Netanyahu to clause six of the communications law. The prime minister cuts Kara off and continues, “Why dissolve it? Let’s abolish it.”

Kara responds, “That’s the intention, to abolish or to dissolve.” As the three discuss legislation in the communications market, Netanyahu once again urges Kara to abolish the council.

Netanyahu also demanded that Kara include in the law a clause that allows foreign citizens to own Israeli television networks. “You didn’t do the foreign ownership,” Netanyahu can be heard saying to the minister regarding the proposed law.