Prime Minister Netanyahu Expected to Quit Post as Israel's Communication Minister

Legal officials doubt they will be able to defend Netanyahu's position after opposition files petition to force him to step down due to alleged negotiations held with media mogul.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev are seen next to a photograph of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. September 28, 2016.
Ronen Zvulun, AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to relinquish his post as Israel's communications minister amid a looming court petition by Israel's opposition over alleged talks he held with prominent media mogul Arnon Mozes. The leading candidates to replace him are Culture Minister Miri Regev and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

Though Netanyahu values control of the ministry, and has even enshrined political supports for his policies through coalition agreements, legal officials believe they will have a hard time defending his post at an upcoming hearing at Israel's High Court.

The court is expected to hear a petition lodged by Israel's opposition leader, Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog, after reports emerged that the police have a taped recording of alleged conversations between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth's publisher Mozes. In the recordings, the premier offers to take steps to weaken Israel Hayom – the country’s highest-circulation daily and widely considered to be the prime minister’s “mouthpiece” – in exchange for more favorable coverage from Mozes' Yedioth Ahronoth.

The reports of the alleged conversations with Yedioth Ahronoth's publisher prove Netanyahu has a direct interest in the Israel Hayom newspaper, Herzog claimed.

Due to assessments by the Justice Ministry, Netanyahu is expected to announce he will not continue to serve as communication minister.

Moreover, recent reports regarding another case involving potential wrongdoing by Netanyahu also cast a problematic light on his role as communication minister: In the investigation called Case 1000, Netanyahu's family is said to have received gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan – a stockholder in Israel's Chanel 10 – which also falls under the oversight of the ministry.

Moreover, no agreement to address a possible conflict of interest has been reached between them, as it has with Shaul Elovitch – the owner of Bezeq, one of Israel's largest telecommunications company.

After Haaretz reported that Netanyahu and his wife received fawning coverage from the Israeli news site Walla – which is owned by Elovitch – Hanegbi was charged with dealing with Bezeq in Netanyahu's stead due to his ties with Elovitch.

Regev is considered close to Netanyahu and frequently defends him in the media. Political sources claim Regev is eying the post in addition to holding the culture portfolio.

Nonetheless, even if Netanyahu hands the post over, he will still hold sway in the office, as he will still have some influence over the minister, but also through the ministry's director-general Shlomo Filber, who he appointed himself.