This is what Arnon Mozes, publisher and managing editor of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in exchange for curbing the distribution of its free competitor, Israel Hayom: “Assuming that there is a law that you and I agree on, I will do my best for you to be here [as prime minister] as long as you want. I told you this and I repeat and look you in the eye and tell you this.”
This is what is written in Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s decision to indict the prime minister, pending a hearing. While Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust in this case, which centers around an alleged deal between him and Mozes on the eve of the 2015 election, Mozes is accused of giving a bribe.
The “gift” that Mozes offered, Mendelblit says, was “the possibility of slanting Yedioth Ahronoth’s coverage against those you consider your political rivals, including the chairman of the Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon, and the person who during the relevant period headed the Habayit Hayehudi party, Naftali Bennett.”
Mozes is also suspected of offering to employ journalists of Netanyahu’s choosing at Yedioth. Later, Mendelblit says, Mozes altered the paper’s political slant ahead of the 2015 election, though in the end the deal with Netanyahu fell through due to a lack of faith between the parties.
Mendelblit’s decision to indict Mozes for bribery is a low point for Israel in general and the media in particular, in the middle of an election campaign. Public attention, which is focusing on the prime minister, must not let Mozes slip under the radar. Mendelblit’s detailed letter opens a window not only on the prime minister’s criminal conduct, but on the corrupt-to-the-core journalistic culture of the publisher of “the country’s newspaper.”
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There’s no way to put a pretty face on it: Mozes prostituted his newspaper. He sought to put its content on sale and give its readers a distorted view of reality, completely disconnected from journalistic objectivity and breaching the public’s faith in the media, especially Yedioth.
The day after the police recommended an indictment, a senior columnist at Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea, called on Mozes to step down. There is no choice but to draw conclusions, he wrote. “But a newspaper, any newspaper, is more important than its journalists and more important than its owners.”
At the time, the police recommendations had been released, but not yet Mendelblit’s decision. On Friday, the newspaper’s political analyst, Sima Kadmon, wrote, “We can hope that Mozes will act in accordance with public norms, step down until there’s a ruling and do the right thing. For his readers and his employees.”
Mozes should listen to the journalists whose integrity he put up for sale. That’s the minimum he can do to restore their honor, as well as the honor of the newspaper and the profession.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.