Netanyahu’s ties with Israeli daily spark criticism

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo by Reuters)
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo by Reuters)

New information has surfaced about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s frequent contacts with the most-widely-circulated, free Israeli newspaper, particularly in the run-up to 2013 elections that he won, sparking suspicions that he used the paper as an illegal propaganda tool.

Ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court, Netanyahu’s Office revealed earlier this week that between 2012 and 2015, he had spoken 223 times to Israel Hayom’s then-editor Amos Regev and 120 times to the paper’s owner, Sheldon Adelson, the Jerusalem Post reported.

In average, Netanyahu spoke with Adelson almost once a week and nearly twice that often with Regev.

In many of the cases, late-night phone calls were followed by Israel Hayom front-page articles praising Netanyahu and attacking his rivals and opponents.

‘The criminal truth of Netanyahu’

Netanyahu has sought to portray his contacts with Israel Hayom, which has the largest circulation and is distributed free-of-charge, as normal. But the frequency of the contacts and the staunchly supportive articles that appeared on the paper after each contact have raised suspicions and criticism.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday that Israel Hayom had served as an illegal political contribution to Netanyahu’s campaign.

He said Netanyahu had effectively been the real editor of the newspaper.

Ex-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak (photo by AFP)

Barak called on Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Comptroller Joseph Shapira to take action.

Israeli lawmaker Yoel Hasson has also written to Mandelblit and Shapira to demand an investigation into the connections between Netanyahu and the newspaper.

“The smoking gun has been uncovered,” Hasson said in a statement, adding, “Netanyahu lied for years in his legal declarations, speeches and interviews.” He said Netanyahu had lied to the Central Elections Committee in the past by denying any connections with Israel Hayom.

“Netanyahu enjoys a newspaper that serves as a propaganda tool that is intended first and foremost for him and the continuation of his tenure as prime minister. This constitutes the largest forbidden contribution a political party has ever received. This is the time to stop hiding and allow the criminal truth of Netanyahu and the Likud [party] to be revealed,” the Israeli lawmaker said.

The Israeli prime minister is already embroiled in three corruption investigations.