“If you take me down, I’ll come after you with everything I’ve got… It will become my life’s mission.” These are the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes in a recording that has become central evidence in a corruption case against Netanyahu, as revealed Saturday by Channel 13 journalist Raviv Drucker.
In the case, known as Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust for striking an alleged deal with the Yedioth Ahronoth publisher. According to the indictment, Mozes was to provide favorable coverage of the prime minister in exchange for legislation to damage its competitor, the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom.
On the tape, Netanyahu is heard telling Mozes: “There shall be no situation in which I’m under attack.” He is also heard saying, “The reports you write, they’re all biased,” to which Mozes replied, “I’m telling you, bring me a writer.”
In another recording, Mozes is asking Netanyahu, “Where is the opinions writer?” “It’s not the opinions,” Netanyahu answered, “It’s your news headlines. They’re biased. Everything is biased.”
Mozes then tells Netanyahu, “Bring me someone tomorrow morning to write for the opinions page.” “It’s negligible,” Netanyahu says. “If it’s negligible, then it’s not a newspaper. … I want to say this… If your aim is to bring me down, to bring Likud down… What do you think I’ll do? Are you leaving me a choice?”
Later in the conversation, the two discuss a Yedioth Ahronoth headline from 1996 which claimed Netanyahu won the televised election debate against Shimon Peres. “You became prime minister because of that headline… You know I was actually the editor during those three months, right?” Mozes says.
Later in the conversation, Netanyahu expresses that he is interested in pre-election coverage and Nentanyahu says: “My mission in this election is to push [Naftali Bennett] below 15 seats.” Mozes asks Netanyahu if he would be comfortable with Bennett as defense minister. “If there was a candidate from the left, it would be easier,” Netanyahu answers.
The meetings were recorded by Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s bureau chief who turned state’s evidence. Netanyahu knew he was being recorded. Mozes did not.
In one recording, Netanyahu tells Mozes: “…the law itself [to regulate Israel Hayom] is correct and I’ll support it. But if you take me down, I’ll come after you with everything I’ve got… It will become my life’s mission. You have to get to know me. You know me partially… and you can avoid that outcome, but…”
Mozes then asks, “So can I avoid it and expect a promise of something from you in the future?”
In another recording from December 2014, Netanyahu says to Mozes: “OK, what am I talking about? I’m not talking about honesty and decent media. And it’s not about you lowering the bar of hostility toward me from nine and a half to seven and a half…”
“All right, it’s clear. It’s about ensuring you are prime minister,” Mozes replies.
In another recording, from a meeting which took place two days after Netanyahu announced that he will dissolve the Knesset and head to an early election in 2014, the prime minister and Mozes discuss the Likud slate. “[Moshe] Feiglin?” Mozes asks. “He’s intelligent.
How can someone so intelligent be insane?” Netanyahu then answers: “There are smart insane people. He’s smart, not insane, but he’s… You don’t need so many… What do we need? A reasonable face. Take people who are reasonable…”
Harow then asks Netanyahu if he has any suggestions, to which Netanyahu answers that he’s open to suggestions. “My worry for you is that the first six or seven on the list…” “Are difficult. Miri [Regev] is also not… She’s quiet,” Netanyahu interjects.
“Yes, but she’s loud,” Mozes says. Netanyahu then mentions Avigdor Lieberman, saying, “I don’t have a problem with Evet, Evet has a problem with me. That’s the truth.” He also mentions Yair Lapid, saying that he hates him, but not as much as he hates his “messed up” proposal for exempting first-time home buyers from paying value added tax.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit also plans to indict Mozes in this case on charges of fraud, pending a hearing.
Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing regarding three of the four corruption cases against him was held in early October. Mendelblit is expected to announce his decision on whether to indict the prime minister by early December.
In the hearing, Netanyahu’s attorneys argued that there was no evidence on the prime minister’s intent to follow through on the alleged deal and therefore he cannot be charged with breach of trust. They also argued that Netanyahu’s actions were meant to deceive Mozes.
In a response from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu claimed that his conversations with Mozes were “empty talk” and that “the prosecutor is also aware that there was no intention to pass the law that would shut down Israel Hayom.”
Netanyahu’s office referred to the tapes as “criminal, tendentious leaks whose aim is to harm Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
“Anyone who listens to the entirety of the tapes between Netanyahu and Mozes will understand very well that it was Mozes who was extorting and threatening Netanyahu – and Netanyahu, all in all, clarified that he will not respond to media attacks by Mozes, just like the attacks he made during the election campaign,” the statement added.