Media reports of the details of alleged conversations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes definitely reveal talk of a proposed bribe, former State Prosecutor Eran Shendar said on Thursday.
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“If we can assume that what has been reported in the media is true, and the recording discussed favorable news coverage in return for the cancellation of a freebie, then what we have is definitely talk of proposed bribery,” Shendar told IDF radio in an interview.
He cautioned, however, that making a definitive judgement depended on how the things were said. “It is not sufficient to read the transcripts of the recordings, because the music is important here,” he said.
Regarding the allegations that wealthy businessmen, among them movie producer Arnon Milchan, were asked to buy luxury goods such as cigars and champagne for Netanyahu and his wife, Shendar said deciding whether such as action was criminal depended very much on the relationship between the giver of the gifts and the receiver.
“If we are good friends and you give me gifts and we are in touch occasionally and I also give you gifts, there is nothing wrong with it,” Shendar said. “But if the relationship is different – if I give gifts to the whole world but never receive any – and the relationship also involves business or something beyond friendship, then it is a different ballgame and possibly even a criminal one.”
“If we are talking about hundreds of thousands of shekels of cigars and the like from someone who has an interest in Channel 10, then nothing more needs to be said. It is a conflict of interest.”
Shendar added that the Netanyahu-Mozes recording reminded him of a conversation he once had with Amnon Dankner, a previous editor of Ma’ariv newspaper and the Justice Ministry spokesman.
“He uttered a sentence that I have never forgotten,” Shendar told the radio interviewer. “He looked me in the eyes and said: ‘We are predators. Give us our helping of meat and we will leave you alone. If you don’t give, we’ll eat you alive.’”
“It was a game being played by politicians, journalists and civil servants which we know from long before today,” Shendar added.
Publish tapes in full
The attorney general should publish the taped conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes in full, the president of the Israel Press Council said on Thursday.
“This issue has a criminal aspect, but it also has a public aspect of the highest order,” said Dalia Dorner, who is also a former Supreme Court justice, in an interview with Haaretz. “Therefore, I request and demand that the attorney general greatly speed up the investigation and bring the tapes, in full, to the public’s knowledge.”
Netanyahu and Mozes are suspected of negotiating over a deal by which Mozes’ daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, would grant Netanyahu more favorable coverage in exchange for the prime minister passing legislation to undermine Yedioth’s main rival, the daily Israel Hayom. The deal never actually came to fruition.
Dorner said she “doesn’t want to live off leaks; I want to get the full picture.”
“It looks very bad, and it’s very sad, that such a conversation was held, if it was held, by important people in this country,” she continued. “I think we’re entitled as citizens to know the details of it.”
She also warned that there is currently a lot of incitement against the Israeli media, which worries her greatly.
“The government must defend the media; it’s the gatekeeper,” Dorner said. “Unfortunately, that isn’t happening.”
If the facts reported about the case to date prove to be true, she added, “everyone who was involved in it must learn a lesson.”
Earlier on Thursday, former State Prosecutor Eran Shendar told Army Radio that based on media reports of the Netanyahu-Mozes conversations, “This was certainly talk about a proposed bribe.”
Nevertheless, he added, a definitive judgment couldn’t be made without actually hearing the tapes. “It’s not even enough to read the transcripts, because the tone is also important here,” he explained.
On Wednesday, former Deputy Supreme Court President Eliahu Mazza gave Army Radio a similar assessment. “It’s clear to every novice jurist that this deal – as it emerges from the regrettably few quotes that have been obtained from these conversations – certainly fulfills the criteria of the crime of bribery as defined in the law.”
The proposal of favorable coverage in exchange for legislation constitutes “an almost perfect package of the person making the offer, the person receiving the offer and there being agreement on the details, on how things will be done and on the promises,” he added.