Excerpts of police interrogations of the billionaire owner of Israel Hayom reveal his anger over the prime minister’s alleged attempt to curb his paper’s popularity.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The billionaire owner of Israel’s most widely read newspaper has completely fallen out with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 13 News reported Sunday, based on excerpts of his last police interrogation regarding the alleged fraud and breach of trust case known as Case 2000.
Netanyahu is suspected of crossing the legal line when he allegedly tried to curb the popularity of Sheldon Adelson’s free daily, Israel Hayom, by attempting to pass a law in 2014 forcing all newspapers to charge for their product. This was reportedly part of a deal for more positive coverage for him and his administration in the rival Yediot Ahronot paper.
Adelson, who had been close to the prime minister for years and whose paper was (and remains) very pro-Netanyahu, was furious at what he saw as a betrayal.
“I will never meet [Netanyahu] again because of what I read” regarding the supposed deal, he told investigators, according to the leaked transcript from last October.
Adelson also revealed that the prime minister, who denied the allegations, had tried pushing him to “hate” then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked because, he said, she was encouraging passage of the law.
In another twist, he said that the prime minister’s wife told him he should fire the paper’s editor, Amos Regev, because Adelson’s wife, who is the paper’s official publisher, would not do so due to personal reasons.
According to the Jewish billionaire, Sarah Netanayahu had “tossed around very rude comments about how [my wife] Miri might be having an affair with Amos.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman reacted sharply to the news report, claiming it was an election gimmick.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu led the opposition to the ‘Israel Hayom’ law, voted against it and even dissolved the Knesset and endangered his political future by preventing the passage of the law,” the spokesman said. “What additional heaps of crap will be published in order to divert public opinion from the central question of this election: Who will be the prime minister — Netanyahu or [Blue and White’s Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz?”
Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset two weeks after the bill passed its preliminary reading, and no steps were taken to revive it in the next government that he formed.
The partially leaked interrogation was not the only time Adelson was questioned over whether he knew of the prime minister’s meetings with Yediot Ahronot publisher Arnon Mozes, in which the alleged deal was discussed. He voluntarily gave testimony in May 2017, and his wife Miriam did so the following month as well.