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How Netanyahu eroded public trust in free press

Revelations of links between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and different media tycoons have eroded Israeli citizens’ trust in democracy and free press.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 15, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun - RTSVKVW
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It’s too early to assess whether the scandal dubbed “Noni-Gate” — a police investigation of a deal discussed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the publisher of the mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth — will result in an indictment of one of these two gentlemen, or both. One cannot rule out the possibility that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will accept their version of events — that negotiations over a deal in which Mozes would tone down Yedioth’s hostile coverage of Netanyahu and in return, Netanyahu would help prevent the distribution of the free Yedioth rival Israel Hayom were only designed to entrap each other. Mandelblit, who, like Elyakim Rubinstein, went from being Cabinet secretary to being appointed attorney general, could also follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in a similar past affair. Rubenstein had dismissed a case of suspected corruption against Netanyahu in the year 2000 involving gifts and suspected bribery by a contractor named Avner Amedi.

Back then, Rubinstein cited “evidentiary difficulties” in explaining his decision at the time not to prosecute Netanyahu, despite recommendations to the contrary by police and then-State Attorney Edna Arbel. Nonetheless, Rubinstein, who was subsequently named to the Supreme Court, shared with the public the “grim picture” that had unfolded before his eyes in the case. He expressed his hope that the citizens of the state would not let their politicians “scheme against the public interest.” Since then, the number of such “grim pictures” painting the Netanyahu family’s extravagant lifestyle at the expense of taxpayers keeps growing, and Rubinstein’s hopes are increasingly evaporating.

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