Yedioth Backs Down on Grant Request

Media company Yedioth Communications yesterday withdrew its petition to the High Court of Justice to force the Investments Center and the Industry and Trade Ministry to explain why they would not consider its application to receive an investment grant for its planned industrial park. The investment was made several years ago, and the request was rejected in a number of debates held by the ministry, despite alleged efforts by its then minister Ehud Olmert to promote the project. Olmert's lobbying apparently continued even though professionals in his ministry made it clear the investment did not meet the minimal criteria of the capital investments promotion law.

Yedioth yanked the petition after the court headed by President Dorit Beinisch met and hinted it would reject the petition. Thus ended a chapter in the problematic saga connecting capital and government. It turned out that even the paper with the country's widest circulation, owned by Arnon Mozes, who wields great political and economic power and close ties to the current prime minister, couldn't defeat the professional legal system and its servants who see themselves as keepers of the public coffers.

Yedioth submitted its original request in late 2000 to build a printing press in the Bar Lev industrial park, located in the Galilee. The planned investment was almost NIS 140 million. Because the area enables entrepreneurs to receive a grant worth 25 percent of their investment, the grant would have amounted to NIS 33.5 million.

Former Investments Center director Shmuel Mordechai was the man who blocked most of Olmert's attempts to approve Yedioth Ahronoth for the investment plan in the North. Mordechai, who resisted pressure elsewhere by Olmert to give grants that did not align with the investments law, was transferred from his position during Olmert's tenure to supervise the diamond industry. Still, his successor in 2005, Hezi Tzaig, also refused to approve the plan.

Olmert commented on reports of his ties to Yedioth last week in TheMarker, saying that he had worked to cut bureaucratic tape and would continue to work for the public good.