Recent revelations about corruption charges levelled against Benjamin Netanyahu, which included a conversation between the Israeli prime minister and media mogul Arnon Mozes, can be added to the evidence for the belief that senior Israeli politicians use their public positions to pursue their personal interests. For Netanyahu, it is possible that he wanted to guarantee economic interests for Mozes in exchange for favourable media coverage which would lead to political gains.
During a five-hour meeting, Israeli police officers questioned Netanyahu about his relationship with Mozes; he denied allegations related to a secret deal. However the police presented him with recordings of a secret conversation with the mogul. Netanyahu and Mozes, apparently, agreed to restore media dominance of one of the best-selling Israeli newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth, which Mozes owns. This deal, according to Haaretz, would offer financial and business advantages to Mozes at the expense of Israel Hayom, which has lost $190 million in seven years.
“Netanyahu will act to reduce the circulation of rival newspaper Israel Hayom, and perhaps even stop it from putting out a weekend magazine edition,” wrote Israeli journalist Shuki Tausig in the Seventh Eye. Tausig expressed his shock about this kind of action. “Such deals reiterate just how baseless many of the widespread axioms about the Israeli press and journalists are,” he said.
According to Haaretz columnist Allison Kaplan Sommer, Netanyahu’s scandalous deal “is a revelation that is shaking up Israel’s political and media worlds as intensely as reports of a proposed secret deal between Donald Trump, CNN and Fox News would rock the United States.” She reflects the scale of shock at this kind of offensive action which is tailored between two people who should be at the pinnacle of Israel’s ethical role-models.
When Netanyahu was faced with the tapes during the investigations, he said that he would support a law delegitimising secret recordings. This follows an established pattern. When rumours of the scandal first started to emerge several months ago, his Likud Party attempted to take pre-emptive measures to protect Netanyahu from being ousted as prime minister.
Likud MK David Amsalem, who is the Knesset’s interior committee chairman, proposed a bill which protects a sitting prime minister from probes into “minor” offences. Despite opposition to this, it was approved and became law.
Allegations of corruption against Netanyahu are nowhere near being the first of their kind in Israeli politics. It is a chronic issue among high profile figures; former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, known for his role in the Oslo process, was ousted in 1977 over what was known as the foreign currency scandal. One of his successors, Ehud Olmert, was forced to resign as prime minister in 2009 over a series of bribery cases. Corruption investigations led to him being imprisoned.
Sex scandals have also been prevalent in Israeli politics; money is not the only corrupting influence. Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, for example, spent five years in prison for rape.
The country’s leaders have committed countless human rights violations against the Palestinians in the name of Israel. Yet their corruption suggests that they are not patriots but opportunists, oppressing the Palestinians for the purpose of self-promotion, and the corrupt benefits that high office can bring.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.