Netanyahu tape probed in graft investigation
Jerusalem (AFP): Israeli police investigating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are looking into a recording of a conversation he had with a long-time enemy over his newspaper providing more favourable coverage to the premier, a report said Sunday.
Police have so far questioned Netanyahu twice in a corruption probe that has looked into whether he unlawfully received gifts from wealthy supporters.
Sunday’s report by Channel 2 television said police had a recording of a conversation between the premier and Arnon Moses, owner of the top-selling Yedioth Aharonot daily and its sister news website Ynet.
The newspaper has provided tough coverage of Netanyahu.
The report alleged that the two discussed “a deal that would help Yedioth in return for favourable coverage (of the premier).”
Channel 2 said the essence of the talk between the premier and the publisher was the possibility of downsizing or closing the weekend supplement of competing paper Israel Hayom, which is pro-Netanyahu.
In return, it added, Yedioth would tone down its coverage of Netanyahu.
The report did not say when the conversation took place or if an agreement was reached.
Since the Israel Hayom freesheet was launched in 2007, its circulation has overtaken that of Yedioth.
It is owned by Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a long-time Netanyahu backer.
A Netanyahu spokesman told AFP he had no immediate comment and the police have stated that they will divulge no details of the investigation until it is complete.
Channel 2 has previously reported that police suspect that over the course of seven or eight years Israeli businessman, Hollywood producer and Netanyahu friend Arnon Milchan sent him boxes of expensive cigars with a value of tens of thousands of dollars.
It said police also suspect that Milchan gave Netanyahu’s wife Sara pink champagne priced at about $100 a bottle.
A lawyer for Netanyahu said Friday there was “nothing of substance” in the allegations he illegally accepted gifts from rich supporters.