Netanyahu slams ‘unprecedented’ media campaign amid graft probe

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been questioned by police in a corruption probe, on Monday denounced an “unprecedented” media campaign to bring down his government.

Police have questioned Netanyahu in a probe into whether he unlawfully received gifts from wealthy supporters.

They are also looking into a recording of a conversation he had with the owner of top-selling Yedioth Aharonot newspaper about getting favourable coverage.

Israeli media have leaked several details about the investigations, including a report by Channel 2 television on the alleged conversation between Netanyahu and Yedioth owner Arnon Moses.

The Channel 2 report alleged that the two discussed “a deal that would help Yedioth in return for favourable coverage (of Netanyahu).”

The television said the essence of the talk between Netanyahu and Moses was the possibility of downsizing or closing the weekend supplement of Yedioth competitor Israel Hayom, which is pro-Netanyahu.

In return, it added, Yedioth would tone down its coverage of Netanyahu.

At the start of a Knesset, parliament, session Netanyahu lambasted Israeli media which he said “are pursuing an unprecedented campaign against me in order to bring down (my) Likud government”.

“Among other things the campaign is aimed at putting pressure on the attorney general so that he would convict me,” said Netanyahu.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is also overseeing the probe into whether the prime minister illegally received gifts from wealthy supporters.

On Monday, Mandelblit said during a meeting with students that he would not allow himself to be influenced by “the background noise of those who are trying to steer us from our goal”.

He also said he would not render public, at least for the time being, the recorded conversation between Netanyahu and Moses.

Media reports say Netanyahu allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from wealthy supporters. The premier’s wife is said to have also received valuable gifts.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, saying repeatedly that “there will be nothing because there is nothing”.

According to media reports Moses was questioned on Sunday and again Monday by Israeli police but a police spokesman told AFP he could not confirm or deny the reports.